Making the Grades
Yes, Mr. Bean talks. And he even has a real name. After reworking his TV sketches into a full-length film format for Bean, Rowan Atkinson is finally given a lead role and a voice all in one movie. However, his character Johnny English doesn't stray far from the bumbling idiot he's repeatedly played in the British sitcom.
Revered around the world, England's Secret Service may be top notch when it comes to the spy business, but an untimely event at a colleague's funeral has wiped out almost the entire force. Now the agency's highest official, Pegasus (Tim Pigot-Smith), is recruiting one of their deskmen, Johnny English, to help protect the Royal Family's newly restored crown jewels during a public unveiling.
Unfortunately, like most of Johnny's endeavors, this one is fraught with disaster. When the gems go missing, he and Agent Bough (Ben Miller) are assigned to recover the stolen loot and find out who's behind the heist. Receiving clearance to tap into the agency's high tech gadgets, this James Bond wannabe finally gets a chance to live out his secret dream of being the elite institution's top man.
Parachuting onto tall buildings, driving a sports car outfitted with champagne and commandeering a tow truck, this British spy narrows down the suspects. But not without committing a blunder or two that sends shudders all the way up the line of command.
During his investigation, he also crosses paths with the alluring Lorna Campbell (Natalie Imbruglia), a mysterious, dark-haired woman who evades straight answers and is never far from a crime scene. As well, he rubs shoulders with Pascal Sauvage (John Malkovich), an arrogant Frenchman who was commissioned to refurbish the Queen's crown but seems to have a big chip on his shoulder when it comes to the reigning royalty.
Playing a well meaning if hardly suave secret agent, Atkinson gives viewers a story where success seems to happen in spite of the hero. It's a style of physical comedy that seems to work for the British actor, although the film's length could easily have been shaved to keep pace with the light plot.
While most of the content list also comes in on the light side, parents will want to note the repeated use of guns and a moment of overly suggestive sexual discussion between Johnny and a female character. His stinky misadventure in a sewer pipe that leaves him covered in excrement and the exposed behind of a high-ranking religious official (both played for comedy) are also elements families may want to be forewarned about before trading in cash for admission tickets.
But even as this undercover operative rocks the very foundations of staunch British decorum with mishaps and mayhem, this spy spoof proves good intentions and a little luck are sometimes all you need to save the day.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Johnny English.
Two of the film’s screenwriters also worked on the James Bond films, Die Another Day and The World is Not Enough. What similarities did you see between those movies and this spy spoof? While both “heroes” are extremes of reality, which one do you most relate to?
Johnny dreams of being the agency"s number one man. What had he done to prepare for the moment of truth when it arrived? What secret dream do you have? What are you doing to help that dream ultimately happen?
Humor of this type requires a straight man to play along side the comedian. How does the Bough character enhance the storyline? What other comedy teams can you think of that include both a jokester and his sidekick?