Johnny English (2003)

(In theaters, July 2003) It’s too bad that Rowan Atkinson has become famous for his character of “Mr. Bean” rather than for “Edmund Blackadder”. This film is sort of a rehash of Bean’s bumbling physical antics along with a feeble attempt at replicating the Bond films. Neither portion works; Atkinson’s pratfalls quickly become tiresome, and he does scarcely little to make us cheer for him. (Only when he does slip on the Blackadder poise and becomes a devastatingly efficient agent -in his dreams or delusions- does he truly come alive and charming.) Confronted with the accumulating evidence of his incompetence, the heroine’s infatuation with English becomes less than a cypher and more of a screenwriter’s conceit. (On the other hand, Natalie Imbruglia does a good job at looking cute and saying her lines properly.) It’s not as if the film is worthless: the car chase stands out as an inspired bit of comedy, Atkinson has his moments, it’s fun to contemplate the very British horror of being ruled by a Frenchman and the film’s all-too-brief depiction of “Canadians” is hilarious. But as a Bond parody, it never gets running. As a comedy, it’s definitely low on laughs. And as an amusing character piece, it never earns our sympathy.

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