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English Bond Spoof featuring Rowan Atkinson

Johnny English is a 2003 Co-production by Working Title Productions and Studio Canal plus (and I'm sure with plenty of seeding money by the British film fund) featuring Rowan Atkinson, John Malkovich, and, bizarrely, Australian pop-lightweight Natalie Imbruglia in the latest of a long list of secret agent spoofs. With predecessors as Casino Royal, the Naked Gun series, The Man who knew to little and the Austin Powers films, this is a pretty crowded market place, necessitating slick film making to tickle the bored moviegoers fancy.

The story is simple: Hapless MI5 deskhugger Johnny English is getting promoted to the UK's foremost agent, after all his colleagues are being blown up during a funeral. He is charged with the task of returning the Queen's crown jewels after they were stolen by french megalomaniac Patrick Sauvage (a bored John Malkovich) who wants to crown himself King of Britain and turn the UK into a huge prison to harbour the scum of the earth (so, no big difference to the real world then. Have you ever been to Grantham?). With the help of nimble Interpol babe Lorna Campbell (the inept Mrs Imbruglia) they save monarchy and the country.

So standard, so good.

Now, before we continue, I have a confession to make: I think Rowan Atkinson is one of the most gifted comedians walking this earth, and with a good script he can turn me from a stone faced German into a formless puddle of connective tissue, giggling uncontrollably, so I was delighted to see this flick being offered on a trip from Singapore to Christchurch as an inflight movie, but even with a generous helping of Singapore Airlines' excellent booze this barely moved my diaphragm. The script is disastrous, the gags utterly predictable, devoid of any surprises and horribly timed, and Atkinson's rubberface wasted on dialogue that is straight out of My little pony. This is hardly surprising, as scriptwriters Neil Purvis and Robert Wade were both responsible for the two last Bond films, who were similarly humourless. Cinematographer Remi Adefarasin does a good job making the film look good, but that unfortunately is not enough to save it.

Which just shows us that the best comedians are helpless without a decent script, so Rowan Atkinson should probably call his old friends and collaborators Richard Curtis and Ben Elton to give him a helping hand the next time.

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