Johnny English

Starring:
  • Bean
  • Malkovich
  • Natalie Imbruglia

 

 
Directed by The Director of Sliding Doors?!?!

"C'mon, Malkovich. I know you were the jewel thief in that one movie."

Not Mending Any Fences

The plot of Johnny English involves a French mogul named Pascal Sauvage, via sinister means, attempting to become the King of England. Now I wonder why they chose the name "Pascal." I mean, in the pantheon of French mathematician/philosophers, he's fairly harmless, especially compared to a Descartes or a Pierre Bayle. Or "Sauvage"—surely the last thing we would call the French is "savage." I don't quite get it. Nor do I get Malkovich's performance. Malkovich actually lives in France, but his accent is more like a French version of an extreme southern drawl if his tongue were three sizes too large—as if Jesse Helms accidentally grew up in Marseilles. Malkovich concentrates on making a one-syllable word into three, each syllable a measure of the pomposity of Pascal Sauvage: He turns "rule" into "roo-ee-luh" as if the word distends the pure evil inside him. That evil, if he had his way, would be to turn the whole of Britain into a prison colony, complete with a Pat Buchanan-inspired Fortress Britain surrounding the isle.

Considering Britain's current stand in the world, I imagine that France could put together quite a formidable coalition of the willing for this project, but, for our purposes, it's merely the funniest joke in Johnny English. Rowan Atkinson does his usual thing, making a mess of high profile situations; there's nothing new to any of this, except that Bean is wearing a tuxedo. Natalie Imbruglia runs around in tight pants, if that's any help to you. Still, there's not the meanness associated with recent American slapstick—old people don't rap, handicapped kids don't fall over, semen isn't drank or smeared on anyone. Though this keeps Johnny English from the depths of Sandler and Dumberer, I can't recommend you to see a movie for what's not in it. In short, Johnny English lacks the madcap abandon of Mr. Bean, encumbered by having to cram the gags into the spy genre. Yet, there's one moment worth paying the matinee fee for: Malkovich's Pascal Sauvage, thwarted from the throne, on a furious rampage against the holy empire, shouting for Westminster Abbey to kiss his French ass. Could it be that Jacques Chirac will inspire the next round of international spy movie villains?

The Pitch:
1 Mr. Bean
Plus
 
1 George Lazenby
Equals
 
2 Johnny English
See It For:

Rowan asks Natalie if she wants to feel "the magic beans."