Johnny English (2003)

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Released 15-Sep-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Making Of
Biographies-Character-Character Statistics
Game-Observation Test
DVD-ROM Extras-Spy Challenge, Downloads, Spy Profiler, Identikit
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 83:51
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (42:37) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Peter Howitt
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Rowan Atkinson
Ben Miller
John Malkovich
Natalie Imbruglia
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Edward Shearmur


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Hungarian
Icelandic
Hebrew
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Rowan Atkinson is somewhat of a comedy enigma. At his best, his comedy is witty, intelligent, and very biting, while at his worst, he is banal and exploitative, often guilty of running a joke far beyond where it stopped being funny. Added to this is his noted ability for physical comedy, an art he took to its height with the much loved, and well regarded, Mr Bean. Unfortunately extending the Bean format to feature length resulted in the sadly disappointing Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie. Obviously not one to be fazed by a challenge, Atkinson, along with the creative team behind Johnny English, has now gone one step further along the line from converting a half-hour TV show to a feature length presentation, and decided to convert a series of 30-second commercials into a feature length presentation.

    The series of commercials on which this movie is based is not one that would be well known to many in Australia, although those who regularly watch the World's Greatest Commercials-type shows will most likely have seen at least some of them. The commercials, for Barclaycard, featured Atkinson as a bumbling English spy who continuously found himself in embarrassing situations in locations around the globe. Luckily for him, his sidekick was always there and ready to fix the situation by judicious use of his Barclaycard. That concept has expanded to a movie with Rowan Atkinson as the bumbling spy Johnny English, who is constantly saved by his sidekick Bough (Ben Miller) - pronounced "Boff" - although this time through common sense and logic, and not the Barclaycard.

    Obviously a bumbling spy with a fix-it sidekick does not make a movie by itself. For that, add one insanely over-the-top French megalomaniac (John Malkovich) and a gorgeous but mysterious woman of questionable motives (Natalie Imbruglia), and stir. The plot, such as it is, finds all the secret agents working for MI7 killed, with one exception: Johnny English. Overlooking the fact that the aforementioned deaths were entirely his fault, English is promoted to head agent, and tasked with guarding the Crown Jewels during a party to celebrate their restoration. When the Jewels are taken from under the noses of the party guests, English and his trusty sidekick Bough must track them down and retrieve them. The primary suspect is eccentric French prison millionaire Pascal Sauvage, but given Sauvage's close friendship with the Prime Minister, it looks like the investigation might come to a dead end. That is until the mysterious Lorna Campbell starts showing up in all the wrong places at all the wrong times.

    Unfortunately for Rowan Atkinson, the translation of the Barclaycard commercials to the big screen is no more successful than the Bean translation. The movie is amusing, but only occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, which in and of itself is not bad, but does seem to be a waste of potential. The character of Johnny English seems to be a combination of Atkinson's two most famous characters - Bean and Blackadder. In fact, some of the dialogue between English and Bough elicits flashbacks to the Blackadder-Baldrick banter, only this time Baldrick is the smarter one. The best part about Johnny English is the performances. Atkinson himself is trying his hardest, while Ben Miller displays exquisite timing and easily holds his own against Atkinson, quite often stealing the scene. John Malkovich is so far over the top that he can probably touch the moon from where this performance is, but it fits the wacky role to a T. Natalie Imbruglia has little of depth to do aside from look pretty, pout a bit, and generally cover the majority of the expositional dialogue.

    This is a movie that Rowan Atkinson fans will definitely get a kick out of. It must be said however, that those who found the Mr Bean movie to be too much will probably find a similar problem here (although this does draw out a little better as it is somewhat less reliant on physical comedy). For those not familiar with Rowan Atkinson, then this is like one of the Austin Powers sequels, but without the profanity, and far fewer sexual references. It's all been done before, but when it's Rowan Atkinson it still raises a chuckle.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer presented for Johnny English is generally very good, but with one problem - an abundance of aliasing.

    Presented at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    Sharpness is very good throughout, and the image contains plenty of fine detail. There is little-to-no grain to hamper the image, either, with only the short section from 36:40 to 36:46 being noticeable. Shadow detail is also very good, with the film's many darker scenes holding plenty of depth, and never fading away into flat murkiness. There is no low level noise present.

    The colours are well rendered, from the greens of the country side to the stark whites of Sauvage's headquarters. There are no problems with blooming or any other colour-related artefact.

    There are no compression artefacts in this transfer at all, but the same cannot be said for film-to-video artefacts - or more precisely, aliasing. The entire transfer is rife with aliasing, and nothing is immune. It affects everything from small items, such as the pen at 7:27 all the way up to virtually all straight lines in the image, such as on the aerial shot of London from 78:36 to 78:46. By far the worst, however, is on the grate behind Sauvage's head, from 30:22 to 30:30. This is close to the single worst instance of aliasing ever to grace DVD. It is a hideous mess of jagged lines and shimmering - even those who never see aliasing should have no trouble seeing this. Fortunately, most of the aliasing is far from as bad as that, and in general it does not affect the transfer too much, but when it does rise to those levels, it is not only distracting, it is disturbing. In addition to the aliasing, there are a few flecks of film artefacts from time to time (most notably over the Working Title logo at the start of the film), but they are always small and never really detract.

    The subtitles are generally accurate, with very few deviations from the spoken word. Unfortunately for the hard of hearing, many of the jokes in this film rely heavily on timing - which the subtitles (and this is not a criticism of the subtitles themselves - it is just a side-effect of the written nature) do not fare well in reproducing.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc, with the layer change taking place at 42:37 during chapter 9. It is reasonably well placed, although still noticeable due to the cessation of background sound.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer is very impressive, and certainly more than would generally be expected, and delivered, for a movie of this nature.

    There are three audio tracks present on this disc. They are the original English dialogue available in both Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 384 kbps) and DTS 5.1 (half bit-rate: 768kbps), as well a Hungarian dub, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 384 kbps).

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times. There are never any problems with mixing levels, while the mild English accents of the actors should not cause any trouble. Audio sync is spot on throughout the transfer and never causes a problem.

    The score is credited to Edward Shearmur, and a very good one it is from this rapidly rising British composer. Sticking mostly to the bright and brassy routine, the score fits perfectly with the tone of the movie, never really taking itself all that seriously. A good fun listen, even without the action, and it really helps the film out.

    Surround presence is extremely good, especially in terms of carrying the score. This is the sort of movie that really does benefit from the audience remembering that it is actually a movie, and the score has been very strongly worked through all speakers, with the result that it becomes larger than the movie itself and more than accentuating the action, carries it. In addition to the score, the surrounds also carry a decent amount of ambient noise, and even a good number of directional effects during the action sequences.

    The subwoofer is a tale of two situations. When employed for action sequences it is quite disappointing, often leaving them feeling a little flat, but when the score kicks in it is a different matter all together. The subwoofer provides very good backup to the score, and really adds drive to it.

    Finally, the question as to which soundtrack is better - Dolby Digital or DTS? The answer is that this is pretty much a tie. There is almost nothing to tell between the two, and as the disc prevents swapping between the soundtracks on the fly, it is difficult to do a direct comparison test. Suffice to say that which ever soundtrack is chosen, the result will certainly please.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras complement for Johnny English is more gimmick than substance, but something is always better than nothing.

Menu

    The menu is 16x9 enhanced, animated, themed around the movie, and features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Featurette: Making Of (24:49)

    This is slightly more interesting than your normal puff piece, as it contains more behind-the-scenes shots than usual for this type of featurette. The interviews follow the tried-and-true lines: "Rowan is sooooo funny", "Natalie is soooo beautiful" etc, but it is still worth a watch. However, note that this featurette does contain many large spoilers and should only be watched after the movie. Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced (which is strange given the high penetration of widescreen TV in Europe), and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Observation Tests (Deleted Scenes - 8:42)

    This disc features its deleted scenes hidden behind a series of five questions posed on a short clip from the movie. This is a very strange idea, and one that will hopefully not be repeated too often. Fortunately, the questions are very simple, and few should have problems getting through, while those that do can simply try again (there are only five of them after all). Once the clips are successfully navigated, a reel of deleted scenes are presented. Most are quite short, although there is a long series of scenes featuring Rowan Atkinson playing another character. Presumably those were deleted as it was simply confusing whether he was actually playing another character, or was in disguise.

Character Stats

    This section provides three pages on each of the characters Johnny English, Pascal Sauvage, Lorna Campbell, and Bough. This is only going to amuse the chronically bored, and even then only for a few minutes. A total waste of time.

DVD-ROM Extras

    The DVD-ROM package on this disc consists of three rather trivial Flash games (Spy Challenge, Spy Profile, and Identikit) that are unlikely to challenge a complete gaming novice, and a selection of wallpaper images and screensavers. While the former are a waste of time, the latter are a welcome addition that it would be nice to see on many more DVDs.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Actually, this is R4 vs R2, as the movie itself has only just finished its US theatrical run. It is very pleasing to say that the two regions are identical - Region 2 fares no better in the extras department than we do. It will be interesting to see if this situation is addressed when it comes time for the US DVD release.

Summary

    Johnny English is an amusing (as opposed to funny) movie that will be enjoyed by fans of Rowan Atkinson, and detested by almost all others. More Black Adder than Bean it none the less still features plenty of vintage physical comedy from Atkinson, and enough laughs to sustain the running time, despite never really living up to its potential.

    The video quality is generally very good, but some extremely severe aliasing is a big disappointment.

    The audio quality is also very good, without any problems. It is enveloping, raucous, and with plenty of bass. Not one to listen to in quiet time.

    The very slim list of extras is a disappointment, especially considering the movie was moderately successful here in Australia, and a huge hit in the UK - it deserves more.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Monday, September 08, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-555K, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersRochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)

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Comments (Add)
Pretty good extra! - Anonymous REPLY POSTED
if only the tone of the first 5 minutes had been maintained for the whole movie - gRANT (Read my bio, mmm... uncompressed surround audio)
Aliasing - Tom (read my bio)