A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
S Can we all pretty much agree that the spy genre has been spoofed to death? The James Bond movies have supplied the target for more than 40 years, and generations of Bond parodies have come and gone, from Dean Martin's Matt Helm to Mike Myers' Austin Powers. If "Austin Powers" is the funniest of the Bondian parodies, "Johnny English" is the least necessary, a mild-mannered ramble down familiar paths.
The movie stars Rowan Atkinson, best known in America as Mr. Bean, star of "Bean" (1997), and as the star of the PBS reruns of "The Black Adder," where he played countless medieval schemers and bumblers in "the most gripping sitcom since 1380." He's the master of looking thoughtful after having committed a grievous breach of manners, logic, the law, personal hygiene or common sense.
In "Johnny English," he plays a character who became famous in Britain as the star of a long-running series of credit card commercials. Johnny English is a low-level functionary in the British Secret Service, pressed into active duty when a bomb destroys all of the other agents. His assignment: Foil a plot to steal the Crown Jewels.
The evil mastermind is Pascal Sauvage (John Malkovich), a French billionaire who believes his family was robbed of the crown two centuries ago. Now the head of a megabillion-dollar international chain of prisons, he poses as a benefactor who pays to protect the jewels in new theft-proof quarters in the Tower of London--but actually plans to steal them and co-opt the Archbishop of Canterbury to crown him king. And how does Queen Elizabeth II feel about this? The film's funniest moment has her signing an abdication form after a gun is pointed at the head of one of her beloved corgis.