MAN WHO KNEW TOO LITTLE, THE

PG
Reviews

Bill Murray fans may proceed without caution to the new spy-spoof presenting Their Boy as The Man Who Knew Too Little, but all others had best beware.

It is awfully late in the day to tie a satiric can to the James Bond line of work-indeed, Bond is a little hard-pressed to keep the ball in the air himself-so the Cold War turf Murray is forced to explore here is downright Arctic and arcane. But he blunders through nevertheless, without much assistance from director Jon Amiel, whose U.S. career (Sommersby, Copycat) is not nearly as notable as his one in British TV (The Singing Detective).

Robert Farrer has adapted his novel Watch That Man, with Howard Franklin, into a one-joke romp that strains when stretched to 92 minutes. The given requires the intrinsically bright Murray to dummy it up a bit as an Iowan who takes a break from Blockbuster video store clerking and shows up, on his birthday, on the London doorstep of his brother, Peter Gallagher. Alas, the banker brother and his wife are hosting an important business dinner, so they quickly ship Murray off to an interactive 'Theatre of Life,' in which professional actors steer him through some extravagantly staged scrapes.

Unfortunately, wires get crossed right at the outset, and things go mildly awry as authentic subversives get into the act. The body count subsequently accelerates, adding to the danger but not discernibly to the forced merriment.

From the get-go, it's Murray's show-and he swaggers through the situation with amusingly artificial bravado. Wasted in support is a sterling group of Brits who have been shanghaied from the London stage and put to ignoble service: Alfred Molina as a Russian hit-man, Richard Wilson and John Standing as crooked English diplomats, and Geraldine James as a sadistic torture diva. Gallagher suffices as the brother who is pulled into these shenanigans, and Joanne Whalley adds some sexiness to the proceedings as a call-girl cohort.

Ultimately, 'The Man Who Knew Too Little' will be the undiscerning movie patron.

--Harry Haun