Movie Review By Andrea Chase
Alfred Hitchcock had a great formula that worked for him over and over again. Take an innocent bystander, plunge him into the middle of nefarious doings and watch what happens. "The Man Who Knew Too Little" puts a different spin on that. We lose the suspense but never quite achieve the wild comedy of errors that I suppose was the object of this exercise.
Instead of stalwart James Stewart, or suave Cary Grant, we get bumbling Bill Murray. Instead of clever jewel thieves or dastardly thugs, we get over the hill and soon to be unemployed spymasters from the East and the West who miss the good old days when the Cold War was in full swing. They've hatched a convoluted plot to raise international tensions using matrushka dolls and compromising love letters.
Enter Murray, who's paying a surprise visit to his brother in London on the very night bro has a stuffy business dinner planned. To get rid of him for the evening, he arranges for Murray to take part in an experimental theater production called "Theater of Life." The idea is that Murray will participate in an improvised play in progress in and around the streets of London with no script and no idea what happens next.
Instead, Murray stumbles into the real-life production of a cold war renewal plan. The joke, and there were a few times that I almost laughed, is that Murray's a complete idiot, but that he plays it smart and suave and the real bad guys believe it. As for the bad guys, well, it helps that they aren't too bright either.
Murray is remarkably restrained as a doofus with a smart-alecky edge. He comes across as an ironic cocker spaniel. Which isn't to say that there isn't some serious slapstick happening, but only that it's confined to how Murray's character accidentally decimates the bad guys, preserves world peace, and gets the girl.
"The Man Who Knew Too Little" is a harmless bit of fluff. Not great, but not unbearably awful. It's perfect for a rainy afternoon at the multiplex if what you came to see has sold out and you need to kill some time until the next show begins.
© 1997 • Andrea Chase • Air Date: 11/19/97
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