Picks and Pans Review: Johnny English

updated 07/28/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/28/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Rowan Atkinson, Natalie Imbruglia

Atkinson is England's answer to Jim Carrey. In pursuit of a laugh, Atkinson will behave with utmost stupidity, pull the silliest of stunts, contort himself into impossible positions—and all with a blissed-out look of regal imperturbability. Get laughs he does, even in a vehicle as ragged as Johnny English, a spy spoof otherwise as crumbly thin as a teatime crumpet.

The key to his title character here (similar to that of the bumbler whom Atkinson portrayed in 1997's Bean) is that he blithely sails through life thinking he's smarter than everyone else when the opposite is true. In Johnny, Atkinson is a lowly, accident-prone member of British intelligence who longs to make like James Bond. He gets his chance when, due to his own negligence, all the top agents are killed and the crown jewels are stolen.

Kids will enjoy English the most—11 is the perfect age—and adults not averse to finding humor in low places will chuckle a bit. Movies like this, though, always look better on video than on the big screen. (PG)

BOTTOM LINE: Johnny be not so good

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