Johnny English

Though the ads for this British secret service farce primed me for an Austin Powers knockoff, the real model for Rowan Atkinson’s stumblebum title hero is Peter Sellers’s Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther comedies. Director Peter Howitt is no Blake Edwards, and some of the slapstick is infantile and, especially toward the end, scatological, but the sheer lunacy of the plotFrench tycoon Pascal Sauvage (John Malkovich with a Clouseau accent) steals the crown jewels and then contrives to get himself crowned king of Englandcarries things along, and on its own modest terms, this romp delivers. Backing up agent English are Natalie Imbruglia (whose character is split rather confusingly between scorn for and infatuation with the hero) and comedian Ben Miller; the amiable script is by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and William Davies. 88 min. (JR)

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