Witless parodies of James Bond-style spy thrillers don't come much more pointless than this dopey vehicle for Rowan Atkinson in MR. BEAN mode. A low-level office employee at the fictitious MI-7, Johnny English (Atkinson) is catapulted into the exciting world of international espionage when suave departmental superstar Agent One (Greg Wise) is killed in action and the next dozen or so logical successors to One's license to kill are blown up at his ill-secured funeral. Despite certain misgivings, Pegasus (Tim Pigott-Smith) promotes English and assigns him to the task of protecting the crown jewels, which have undergone a multi-million dollar restoration and are being unveiled at a party hosted by French prison magnate Pascal Sauvage (John Malkovich), who underwrote the project. The jewels are stolen right out from under agent English's nose, so he and his phlegmatic partner, Bough (Ben Miller), must recover them pronto. They uncover a nefarious plot Sauvage intends to usurp the British crown, make himself king and wreak havoc on the scepter'd isle but no-one believes English because he's such a blithering idiot. With the help of the enigmatic Lorna Campbell (pop star Natalie Imbruglia), a lethal beauty of uncertain loyalties and motives, English and Bough must stop Sauvage before its too late. If you were to strip the AUSTIN POWERS films of their juvenile lewdness, psychedelic decor and swinging soundtrack while leaving intact the potty humor and pratfalls, the result would be something very like this pointless spy spoof. Director Peter Hewitt keeps the film moving briskly, but the measure of whether or not it will seem the longest 88 minutes of your life is how much you look forward to the thought of Atkinson arching his eyebrows, affecting funny voices, rolling his pop-eyes, capering foolishly in the shower and pompously insisting that he meant to do that.
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