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Johnny English

THERE IS no need to think of course — in a movie like this. You just sail along with its sometimes-comic, sometimes painful events that lead to a pure klutz doing a Bond or at best a secret service agent. Of course, all the things he does are designed to make audiences laugh.

A spy movie farce or spoof — whichever way you look at it, you should find it funny provided you are a fan of Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) with his rolling eyes, wriggling eyebrows, nervous smiles who puts his bulbous nose into all things, especially where they don't need to be. If that is the case, you are likely to appreciate Universal Pictures' "Johnny English".

So that's it. It is just Atkinson taking over stock situations from spy genres, and apparently having fun doing the role. He is deliberately clumsy — not an idiot — and is determined to prove to the powers that be, that he is not such a bad agent after all. He covers up for his incompetence for the job by having a plan of action and waving off all objections. A series of mishaps and he lands up with the job he so craves for.

And the job? He has to save the crown of England from being wrested by the French! And so Britain entrusts to this man its national integrity — a comedy clearly designed to appeal to a British audience and definitely not a French one. The film's arch villain is Pascal Sauvage (John Malkovich), a man with vile plans of overthrowing the Queen of England. This, he plans to do so by stealing the crown jewels of England and also trace his ancestry back to the royalty. He would then make the Queen abdicate and being next in the line, would be crowned. With his powers then, he would turn Britain into an enormous prison and make France the capital of his empire.

And as in all such impossible plots, out to stop him are Johnny English, his side kick, Bough (Ben Miller) who does everything right and has far more sense than the master, and the wily Lorna Campbell, (Australian pop singer, Natalie Imbruglia) who eventually turns out to be a secret service agent on the same trail. And the three of them are like elephants in a china shop as they stumble their way into the truth.

A disaster in the beginning tells us why the British Government cannot send their best men and why they are forced to choose Johnny — but of course, he storms his way into a happy ending, never mind all the blunders along the way. While he certainly has no makings of a secret agent, he does have a way of extricating himself out of any mess. Other than the comedy evoked by his facial expressions, the film moves along rather erratically. Probably because the writers (William Davies, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade) and the director (Peter Howitt), can't seem to decide whether it should be bawdy, deadpan or just slapstick.

CHITRA MAHESH

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