The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997) / Comedy-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG for language, innuendo, violence and sensuality
Running Time: 94 min.
Cast: Bill Murray, Joanne Whalley, Peter Gallagher, Alfred Molina, Richard Wilson
Cameo: Dexter Fletcher, Eddie Marsan, Maxwell Caulfield
Director: Jon Amiel
Screenplay: Robert Farrar, Howard Franklin (based on Farrar's book, "Watch That Man")
Review published November 14, 1998
Bill Murray (Mad Dog and Glory, Groundhog Day) plays an annoying American video store clerk who travels to England to visit his brother (Gallagher, While You Were Sleeping) on his birthday. The brother does not want him botching an important business meeting with his presence, so gets him a birthday present to keep him away from home for the evening. The present is being enlisted in a sort of interactive street theater troupe called the Theatre of Life, whereby the guest of honor actually participates in the drama taking place in various locations around town. However, through a series of coincidences, he finds himself being mistaken for a spy and embroiled in an elaborate espionage scheme, all the while thinking it's all part of the act.
The Man Who Knew Too Little has a very funny and terrific premise for a comedy, and Murray does deliver one of his best performances. Too bad it's all for naught as the script is just isn't up to that level. Murray near single-handedly makes the film easy to watch, although he is surrounded by good supporting actors, and the direction by Jon Amiel (Entrapment, The Core) is crisp. But what can you do with a script that has no fizz and the result is two hours of boredom? It's about the cinematic equivalent of taking the passenger plane to the runway without any intention of taking off.
©1998 Vince Leo