Peter Sellers is dead, and it’s about time I started coming to grips with that notion. Peter Sellers’ comedic genius was incredible to watch. This man could do impressions, make voices, create new characters and you’d never know it was him, such is the case with his character Inspector Cleauseau. If you don’t know who Peter Sellers or his character are, then shame on you. There’s never going to be another good comedy film, ever, and “Johnny English” is proof of that. If the studio that produced this expects to create a franchise off this character, then they’re completely uninformed. A mixture of different gags and a complete rip-off of Sellers’ hilarious Inspector Cleausaeu to the point where it becomes embarrassing.
We meet Johnny English played by Rowan Atkinson who is a bungling secret agent and isn’t respected, so with his antics and complete incompetence, you wonder why he’s even an agent or how he made it through basic training, but, we’re supposed to believe he’s a secret agent. Everything about the character Johnny English is contrived from a much better character Inspector Cleauseau. His clumsiness, ineptitude, ego, sheer incompetence is taken from the earlier character and he even sports a straight man who is his assistant with a one word name (Bough played by Ben Miller), and fowls up while his assistant looks on in shock. But there’s nothing funny about the character of English, he’s bland and very obnoxious. The scripts is comprised of old gags that we’ve seen since the fifties, and boy there’s not a laugh here.
There’s the famous pretending to fight someone near a door while people look on none the wiser, the goofy car chase, his knack for speaking fowl of someone when they’re right behind him, oh boy it keeps coming and there’s still no laughs here. Rowan Atkinson is hard to take here, maybe you know him as Mr. Bean or in “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, suffice to say there’s nothing about him that’s even remotely appealing, but what’s shocking, is the fact that John Malkovich is in here. Why is he in this film? I kept asking myself this question, but alas maybe it was for the money, or maybe he believed this was a good movie. Then, if that’s not worse he can’t do a French accent to save his life, of course he could never really do a good accent to begin with, but here he’s again a one note villain that just isn’t that interesting.
What was so funny about Sellers’ character was that he was so oblivious to how bad an officer he was and he was so endearing, charming and likable that we didn’t really need a villain, because Sellers just made the movie so funny there wasn’t a lot of point in it, but English is just so shrill and annoying. Why anyone would even think of hiring him for anything is beyond me, and is just far-fetched, so we’re given the obligatory romance ala Natalie Imbruglia the singer who plays the one-dimensional one note Lorna Campbell, the hot but carbon copy femme fatale whose mysterious goings on fascinate Johnny, and we’re brought from one tired gag, to another until the end which makes yet another desperate attempt, but fails. “Johnny English” is exactly the kind of film that shouldn’t be turned into a franchise, a trite contrived film with gags that just aren’t original, and aren’t even done right to begin with. Contrived, bland, and unfunny with an awful lead character, Johnny English won’t start a franchise solely because he’s just a rip-off of a better character. Watch “A Shot in the Dark” and “Return of the Pink Panther” and you decide who the better character is.