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Universal // PG // January 13, 2003
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
A 007 spoof written by actual 007 writers (Robert Wade and Neal Purvis wrote "Die Another Day", "World is Not Enough" and are working on 2005's Bond XXI), "Johnny English" stars British comic Rowan Atkinson as Johnny English, a wannabe spy who, as the film starts, is satisfied with being a bumbling assistant. When the entire staff of secret agents is taken out of the picture in one scene, the only potential agent left is English.
The film's thin plot simply revolves around Pascal Sauvage (John Malkovich), a French criminal who wants to steal the crown jewels. It's up to English to figure out how to stop him, by skill, accident, or - more likely - just pure dumb luck. Assisting him is Lorna (Natalie Imbruglia), another agent who pops into the picture whenever English has gotten himself into more than he can handle.
While the film was written by two writers of Bond films, "Johnny English" feels like something the two threw together over a weekend. There's no doubt that spy spoofs are tired at this point (even the "Austin Powers" camp realized this after the third picture) and "Johnny English" brings nothing new to the table. We get the same tired old gags of English falling down, English getting hit in the head, English saying something completely stupid in the presence of his superiors, storming into a situation of innocent people and thinking they're villians, etc. While I'll admit there are a couple of inspired moments (a car chase with English sitting in a car that's held on a crane hanging from a truck). Malkovich's questionable participation in the film is a tad odd, as is the actor's attempts at a French accent, but he does get a few absurd laughs.
I've only occasionally found Atkinson amusing, but this wasn't one of those times. The material is thin and with little to do, Atkinson really only manages a performance of rather generic slapstick. There's little of the actor's usual energy or enthusiasm. Malkovich fares somewhat better in a minor part as the villian of the piece, while pop singer Natalie Imbruglia doesn't have much to do aside from look cute.
Even seeming long at 88 minutes, "Johnny English" is a thin "Bond for kids" comedy that doesn't pull much in the way of laughs from an already tired genre.
VIDEO: "Johnny English" is presented by Universal in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation is generally decent, with image quality that's only above-average, due to a few noticable flaws that take it down a couple notches. Sharpness and detail are moderately good, although a bit inconsistent, with some brighter scenes appearing crisp and well-defined, while others can look a tad soft.
The picture also looked a little inconsistent in other areas. Some stretches appeared a little rough, with mild amounts of edge enhancement and a bit of grain in the image. Compression artifacts are also noticed on a couple of occasions. Colors generally seemed accurate, with occasional vibrant tones and respectable saturation.
SOUND: "Johnny English" is presented here with a mediocre Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation that only puts the rear speakers to use a couple of times for slight reinforcement of the score. A couple of action sequences that could have thrown sound effects to the rears don't take the opportunity to do so. Dialogue was easily heard, but could sound a tad muffled at times.
EXTRAS: A 24-minute "making of" documentary, 9 minutes of deleted scenes, "spy tips", character bios and a preview for the current theatrical release, "Peter Pan".
Final Thoughts: A lame spy spoof that was a waste of 88 minutes, "Johnny English" only pulls a couple of minor chuckles and otherwise just bores. Universal's DVD edition provides alright audio/video quality, along with a few supplements. Not recommended.