This mild spy parody has nothing new, but Rowan Atkinson (“Mr. Bean”) is a gifted comedian who manages to wring some new laughs with material that has already been fully explored in movies from Our Man Flint and Dean Martin’s Matt Helm movies to Spy Hard and Mike Meyers’ Austin Powers series.
Atkinson plays Johnny English, a low-level bureaucrat in England’s spy service who has Walter Mitty dreams of being a field agent. When all of the agents are wiped out through his ineptitude, he gets his chance.
England’s crown jewels have been stolen by French zillionaire Pascal Sauvage (John Malkovich with a Pepe LePew accent), who plans to take over England and turn it into a prison facility. It’s up to Johnny English, his sidekick Bough (pronounced “Boff”) and woman of mystery Natalie Imbruglia to save the day. The spy parts aren’t exciting enough and the funny parts aren’t funny enough, but the overall effect is mildly amusing.
Parents should know that there are a few PG-rated naughty words and some bathroom jokes. Kids not familiar with the long-term French-English political and cultural clashes may be confused by the animosity between the French and English characters.
Families who see this movie should talk about why it was so hard for Johnny English to admit that he had made a mistake.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Bill Murray’s The Man Who Knew Too Little .