Friday November 14, 1997
"The Man Who Knew Too Little" is too little, too late. At a time when the James Bond franchise struggles to keep au courant, a sendup of those Cold War spy capers of the '60s and '70s requires considerable imagination. Unfortunately, Bill Murray, Joanne Whalley, Peter Gallagher and Alfred Molina can't make a dent in this stale and hopelessly contrived comedy.
A naive Blockbuster clerk from Des Moines whose knowledge of life would seem to come entirely from the movies, Murray's Wallace Ritchie pops up unannounced at the posh London residence of his rich brother James (Gallagher), just as James and his wife are preparing for a formal dinner for a representative of a German investment firm involving a deal that could yield James millions.
What to do with the nerdy Wally, the kind of guy who'll say anything that crosses his mind? Wallace ends up packed off with a ticket to London's newest interactive experience, the Theater of Life, which simulates all manner of adventures for its participants. One phone call is all it takes for the participant to get instructions for what he or she is to do next.
You may have already guessed where director Jon Amiel and his writers are taking us: The trouble Wally is about to get into is not a performance but for real, involving some old spy types eager to heat up the Cold War, but Wally nonchalantly takes every danger as a put-on.
Their shenanigans are resolutely mechanical, uninspired and unfunny. To be sure, Wally will be rewarded for his impregnable stupidity. Murray and others are game, but you really don't need to know more about this dud. "The Man Who Knew Too Little" isn't likely to give "Austin Powers" a run for its money.
The Man Who Knew Too Little, 1997. PG, for language, innuendo, comic violence and sensuality. A Warner Bros. release of a Regency Enterprises presentation of an Arnon Milchan/Polar production. Director Jon Amiel. Producers Milchan, Michael Nathanson, Mark Tarlov. Executive producers Elisabeth Robinson and Joe Caracciolo Jr. Screenplay by Robert Farrar and Howard Franklin; based on Farrar's novel "Watch That Man." Cinematographer Robert Stevens. Editor Pamela Power. Costumes Janty Yates. Music Chris Young. Production designer Jim Clay. Art director Chris Seagers. Set decorator Maggie Gray. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. Bill Murray as Wallace Ritchie. Peter Gallagher as James Ritchie. Joanne Whalley as Lori. Alfred Molina as Boris.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times