Admit it, those Bond-spoofing Barclaycard ads with Rowan Atkinson were quite amusing. But for pity's sake, what kind of fool would try to base a movie on them? Oh God, not you again, Atkinson. Right, let's get this over with...
Mr Rowan is Johnny English, an `MI7' pen-pusher who finds himself drafted into action after every single secret agent in the country gets blown to bits. With megalomaniac millionaire Frenchman Pascal Sauvage (John Malkovich) out to pilfer the Crown Jewels and take over the monarchy, it's down to English, his trusty sidekick Bough (Ben Miller) and mystery woman Lorna (Natalie Imbruglia) to save the day.
Yes, this is your standard-issue spy spoof kit. In fact, it looks suspiciously like The World Is Not Enough scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade saw the chance to blag an easy payday - - presumably this was knocked up in a lunchtime before they buggered off to write Die Another Day. Less Austin Powers than Bean in a monkey suit, the gags range from the puny (Johnny climbs up a sewerage pipe) to the predictable (Johnny gets covered in poo) to the puerile (Johnny says "poo").
Worse still, you could actually find yourself chuckling at this lazy nonsense. There's no rational explanation for it, but even when it telegraphs the gags from adjacent postal districts, Johnny English still manages to scoop the odd laugh. Atkinson once again rolls out his quaint, tried-and-tested brand of bumbling idiot, and panto villain Malkovich treats the whole silly enterprise with the respect it deserves, camping it up with a cod French accent that's about on a par with his mangled Russian in Rounders.
Oh, and let's not forget the much-lusted-after Natalie Imbruglia, here making her big-screen acting debut. Well, her big-screen debut. The ex-Neighbours starlet is required to do very little but ride a motorbike and look beautiful doing it. Which, truth be told, she does extremely well, but it's just not enough. Sadly, the same thing can be said for the entire film.