Johnny English Peter Howitt

Johnny English Peter Howitt
In the tradition of spy spoofs everywhere, à la Get Smart and The Pink Panther, Rowan Atkinson stars as Johnny English, a bumbling British secret service file clerk who gets his shot at being the suave 007-type when one dastardly blow wipes out all of Britain's field agents. Aided by his trusty but simple sidekick Bough (Ben Miller, There's Only One Jimmy Grimble), English must uncover the criminal mastermind behind the disappearance of the Crown Jewels, contending with the unsavoury French jail baron Pascal Sauvage (John Malkovich in a French accent so bad it's sad) and the enigmatic Lorna (one-mega-hit songstress Natalie Imbruglia). This has happened once before to the brilliant Atkinson — a big budget blockbuster gone bad. Based on a series of popular credit card ads featuring Atkinson as a self-important would-be adventurer, Johnny English lacks the same quality as 1997's Bean, namely, spark. The dumbing down of Atkinson's usual sardonic wit and subtle self-conscious expression doesn't work successfully. Atkinson does not play Jimmy Carrey well. After critics panned Johnny English, Atkinson suffered a bout of depression, yet JE still ranked as the fifth highest grossing film in Britain that year. The DVD version is nicely set up, with one of the more advanced Special Features sections. Outside of an informative "making of," there are noteworthy deleted scenes, "Character profiles" set up Mission Impossible-style and a quick review of some of the more slapstick moments in a section called "Spy tips." It also has DVD-ROM features that, aside from some lame screensavers and wallpapers, include a simple but surprisingly tricky "Spy Challenge" game, "Identikit," which allows features on a face to be altered and the results printed, and "Spy profiler," which gives you a code name, a quiz to gauge your MI7 potential and a printable MI7 card. (Universal)