Britain's most haphazard super-sleuth Johnny English makes his way to Blu-ray for the first time today, so we finally get to see all those unintentional explosions, misfired shots and high speed car totalling chases in glorious high definition...and right in time for us to revisit before he gets 'Reborn' next month! Read on for our review... In an uncertain world, few things are as dependable as the British Secret Service. So when an unthinkable plan to filch the country's beloved Crown Jewels comes to the Service's attention, the best man for the job, the crème de la crème of the organization's super sleuths, Agent Number One is quickly assigned to the case and is quickly dispatched to six feet under. But unfortunately for the B.S.S., virtually every other able member of its esteemed ranks soon joins Agent Number One in the after world when the funeral is bombed! Now there is only one man remaining who can even hope to protect his country, avenge the elimination of all of the Secret Service's spies and uncover the fiendish plot to make off with the lasting symbols of the once supreme British empire, the Crown Jewels Johnny English. He knows no fear. He knows no danger. In fact, he knows absolutely nothing! With a number of spy parodies having been produced since the first James Bond film, Dr No in 1962, proved just how popular secret agents were with audiences, Johnny English is certainly one of the better ones, despite having it's tongue firmly placed within it's cheek! As well as providing genuine laughs repeatedly, the narrative actually provides enough action and suspense to make it an engaging and enjoyable spoof. Unlike previous parodies such as Spy Hard (1996) and the Austin Powers series (1997-2003), that are more concerned with slapstick and crude jokes, Johnny English goes beyond this to also exhibit a far more intelligent breed of comedy as well. Whilst Johnny still provides enough pratfalls and comic mistakes, he also proves himself a very able (if not lucky!) spy. The comedy is suitable for both adults and younger viewers, with a unique brand of humour that manages to transcend the standard barriers of the spoof genre. There's also a lot of action and impressive stunts that keep viewers glued to the screen, with highlights being the hearse chase scene, the Sauvage office break in and the final coronation sequence. Generally, the film provides just the right mix of laughs, action, tension and entertainment to be a truly engaging spy parody the whole family can enjoy! Rowan Atkinson is perfectly cast as English, a character with a far greater sense of dedication and enthusiasm than he does actual skills or super-sleuth intelligence! Atkinson captures English's attempts to be smooth and charismatic in a hilarious way and through a series of simple facial expressions (the tilting down of the head, the rise of an eyebrow etc), his attempts to be either seductive or charming become ridiculous and almost cringe worthy! Atkinson plays the action scenes with exaggerated movements and over the top enthusiasm to brilliantly capture the character's inexperience and lack of knowledge: when Johnny first tries to shoot his gun he actually removes the ammunition clip and such a simple mistake induces out loud laughter due to his expressive performance. Natalie Imbruglia as the love interest and fellow agent, Bough, is proficient within the role, but her part is rather small with only a couple of scenes within the first hour of the film. As the plot progresses her screen time increases and viewers get to see more of her sassy and competent character. Imbruglia was an interesting choice for the role - she's hardly an A-lister - but she manages to embody the right mix of intelligence and sexiness to give a solid performance. John Malkovich as the villain Pascal Sauvage is a blend of comic, maniacal behaviour and ridiculous criminal madness. Malkovichs own bizarre personality works in tandem with his performance to create an absurd villain, who's also rather unsettling due to the actor's ability to play crazy so convincingly. Sauvage is far more intelligent and charismatic than English and Malkovich uses this to give a slimy performance that ensures audiences are well and truly backing English! Excellent support comes from a large cast of less well known actors, but the foremost of this talent is Ben Miller as Johnny's assistant Bough, who appears to have far more skills and intelligence on his side but whose respect for his superior won't allow him to call out any of English's mistakes! Miller plays the character with wit, to support the comedy of the film and keep audiences laughing.
QUALITYThe upgraded transfer improves upon the previous DVD release, with stronger colours and sharper images. Certain scenes do suffer from noticeable grain, but generally the film looks clear and clean. The HD transfer improves the colour scheme massively, with a palette that is vibrant and fresh. Outside locations are the most impressive, with lush greenery and chalky blue/grey skies being fully representative of the British landscape. The definition between different tones is proficient, even with dark colours (including blacks). Whilst the picture quality of the film is not free from all imperfections, it is generally a solid release. The audio quality is perhaps more impressive than the visuals, with excellent definition between different channels of sound. The dialogue remains clear and crisp throughout, without any moments that are less than audible. Background ambient sound fills the speakers, with car engines and explosions in particular sounding like they are in the same room as viewers! The musical soundtrack sounds fantastic too, with Robbie Williams' humorous title track blaring through the full range of speakers and the original score highlighting the action and comedy.
EXTRASA rather disappointing set of special features accompany the film, with only the following on the disc: The Making of Johnny English - this standard documentary sees cast and crew discussing various aspects of the film. It's simple and rather superficial - nobody goes into great detail about the production - but it's interesting and will satisfy casual fans of the film. Deleted Scenes - a plethora of deleted scenes are presented in standard definition. The quality is rather disappointing, but the scenes are watchable. However, it's clear why the clips housed here didn't actually make the final cut - they're certainly filler to say the least! My Scenes - allowing viewers to bookmark their favourite scenes for easy access on future screenings. Film: 4 out of 5 Johnny English is one of those rare things - a funny, intelligent parody that will entertain the whole family! Visuals: 3.5 out of 5 A solid transfer is provided on this release, with minimal grain and very few blemishes to complain of. Audio: 4 out of 5 The dialogue is clear and crisp, with excellent attention paid to the ambient sound, which fills the full range of speakers and is about as close to a cinema experience as can be had at home! Extras: 2 out of 5 Slightly disappointing that only a couple of special features relating to the film are included, but these will entertain those who enjoyed the film. Overall: 3.5 out of 5 An enjoyable film has been upgraded well, but is let down by a poor showing of special features. Johnny English is out on blu-ray now.
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