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Johnny English
UK, 2003
[Peter Howitt]
Rowan Atkinson, John Malkovich, Natalie Imbruglia, Tim Pigott-Smith
Peter Howitt's latest piece is a powerful and moving drama about the turbulent debates that took place between Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre circa 1941, dwelling mainly on the underlying homoerotic yearning that fuelled them. Oh OK, so it's a British comedy with a lot of bottom jokes in it. And if you thought that sentence was crushingly obvious then I've already written the perfect review of Johnny English. It's predictability bordering on deja vu, but hey, would you rather sit through a study of existensialism or is your preference seeing Mr Bean down a toilet covered in shit? Well?

It's a James Bond spoof wherein our hero, wait for it, is a bit CLUMSY!!! And if your sides aren't already splitting, err, don't bother. It's a balls-out and hammered-thumbed celebration of the archaic British tradition of incompetence. Like, in this one scene, Johnny, like, FALLS DOWN A HOLE!! And in another, Johnny, like, ACCIDENTALLY CRIPPLES A RECEPTIONIST!! And, like, in another, Johnny TRIES TO PULL THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY'S FACE OFF!!

The plot, read anaemic framework collapsing under the weight of arse jokes, involves a naughty Frenchman forcing our glorious monarch to abdicate the throne so he can become the King of England and turn these glorious isles into one big prison or something stupid like that. What's that, I hear say? A British film that portrays the French as inferior villains? Surely that was just a typo? Well, unfortunately not. Jingoism is rarely less appetising than when it's served with a side order of barely concealed contempt for another race. I mean, the Hundred Years War is just SO 14th Century. Get over it!

And here comes the but(t): it's a testament to the comic skill of the cast that some of the punchlines actually work, even though their predictability couldn't be more apparent if they were illustrated in flourescent writing on the screen in the torturous run-up. The memory of the photofit scene even has me laughing now, even though I'm on my own at the computer, no doubt prompting further fears within my family about the state of my mental health. But it WAS funny. Then again, I got my biggest laugh of the day at the lobby, where I saw a guy wearing a pink scarf. In MAY! It's not even the kind of thing you'd do in December! The addition of doe-eyed Australian Natalie Imbruglia, who had chart hits with 'Torn' and...err, well, she provides sorely needed opticular confectionery anyway. They'd obviously used up most of the budget on obtaining her, as they were obviously too hard up to fork out on a decent Elizabeth II lookalike, opting instead for crappy back-to-the-camera shots of Her Maj's hideous grey perm. No offence Ma'am. So, in a word, functional. But in another more shrewd word, fartbumpoo.
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