Johnny English

Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Natalie Imbruglia, John Malkovich, Ben Miller, Tim Pigott-Smith, Douglas McFerran and Kevin McNally
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 12
Available now

When her majesty's crown jewels are stolen by a conniving Frenchman, who also plans to steal the queen's throne, Johnny English, a bit unseasoned but intensely enthusiastic, is thrown onto the case. Fast cars, high tech gadgets, top secret info - Johnny can hardly believe it. He may be in over his head, but his courage and dedication are unmatched - especially after he meets double agent Lorna Campbell and discovers that falling in love makes saving the nation even more exciting...

Johnny English could have been such a mess. The mere notion of it has 'box office disaster' written all over it. A movie designed to spoof the James Bond series of movies is hardly original, with the most recent attempt being the Austin Powers films. But, for the most part this is entertaining viewing.

Rowan Atkinson plays Johnny English, a character not unlike the bumbling secret agent he played for a series of Barclay Card commercials a number of years ago. In fact maybe a little too similar as his sidekick here is again called Bough.

The whole movie is clearly a vessel for Atkinson's Mr Bean style bumbling humour but, in this instance, it works quite nicely. For the most part the script is fairly original [well, as original as this genre can get] but there is one scene that is taken straight from The Naked Gun [the tattoo on the bum scene] and there are more than a few Blackadder and Mr Bean moments.

The supporting cast are faultless too. Ben Miller is perfect in the role of Bough, John Malkovich is outrageously over the top as the crazed Frenchman who wants to turn the UK into a giant prison and Natalie Imbruglia is great as the love interest - although she is very under used.

There are some great action sequences and hilariously dark comic scenes - including one at a funeral. And while the writers really go hell for leather poking fun at the French (I never thought I'd say this, but the biggest laugh in the movie was reserved for a very funny voice over by Chris Tarrant), they spend most of their energy ridiculing the British.

By the end of the movie things start to fall apart, but the director quickly wraps up the final scene and the end credits roll just in time to stop everything getting too silly.

The DVD menus are also worthy of note. Obviously, someone has gone to a great amount of effort to emulate the MGM James Bond menus and they look really impressive.

Extras on the disc are okay with a making of documentary, character profiles and observation tests (which if you get right you get to see 10 minutes of deleted scenes - which are pretty good. There are some additional DVD-ROM extras including downloads, spy challenge, spy profiler and indentikit.

Sure, Johnny English is over the top and a few of the jokes don't work. But, on the whole, this is fun. And the kids will love it.

Darren Rea

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