Poor Rowan Atkinson. He really is a great comedian, I swear. His antics in the BBC’s “Black Adder” and “Bean” still make me convulse in laughter fifteen years and hundreds of viewings later. Johnny English doesn’t do his comedic timing or ability to turn a facial twitch into a soliloquy justice at all.
Johnny worked in the back office of MI7 and dreamed of being a suave, sexy super spy until the day that every spy in the country was killed (due to his negligence, which his superiors didn’t seem to realize). Scraping the bottom of the barrel as it were, they then set Johnny to protect the crown jewels.
Of course, Johnny has them stolen out from under his prodigious nose, leading him to uncover a devious criminal plot masterminded by Frenchman Pascal Sauvage (John Malkovitch with possibly the worst accent known to man). This of course leads to much British/French rivalry humor that most Americans probably won’t get unless they know how much two countries loathe each other.
Johnny is completely incompetent, but he has the aid of his much more on the ball assistant Ben (Ben Miller), and the completely God-only-knows-why-gobsmacked-with-him Interpol agent Lorna (Natalie Imbruglia) who doubles as the required amount of T&A.
The first half of the movie is literally agonizing to watch. I sat in my seat and squirmed and hid my face and moaned in agony as the worst sight gags and jokes known to man telegraphed themselves ages in advance. And then Rowan Atkinson would freeze, look at the camera, and the corner of his eye would twitch.
And I laughed. Lord, how I laughed. I laughed so hard that I was almost sick at one point. But it wasn’t a laugh at a brilliant joke kind of laugh. It was more of an “I can’t believe I’m watching this, I can’t believe I’m seeing this, I can’t believe they did that” kind of laugh as he shoots his boss’s secretary, or exposes the Archbishop of Canterbury’s bare buttocks to the world, or where he climbs up the sewer pipe into the Sauvage’s chateau and comes up covered in lumps of … well… poo.
Rowan really is much better than this. I know he is. I’ve seen it. He’s a brilliant physical comedian who can double you over with just a look. Just look at the scenes in the movie of him in the bathroom. That is the brilliance of Rowan Atkinson.
Unfortunately, they didn’t tape enough of that to fill up the one hour and twenty minutes of the film. Of course, my eight year old thought the movie was Oscar quality. I’ll let that statement speak for itself.