The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997) starring Bill Murray, Peter Gallagher, Joanne Whalley, Alfred Molina, Richard Wilson, John Standing, Simon Chandler, Geraldine James directed by Jon Amiel Movie Review

The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997)   2/52/52/52/52/5

Bill Murray in The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997)

The Man Who Needed Another Joke

American Wallace Ritchie (Bill Murray - Kingpin) decides to head to London to surprise his brother James (Peter Gallagher - While You Were Sleeping) and sister-in-law Barbara (Anna Chancellor) which he does when he shows up unexpectedly. But it is a bad time for James as he is about to host an incredibly important business dinner and having his non business minded brother around spells disaster. So James pays for him to go to the "Theatre of Life", a group of actors who act out life dramas and involve the public in them. Unfortunately Wallace answers a phone during one of these interactive life theatre events and unwittingly takes a call for a real hitman unwittingly drawn into the world of espionage and assassination attempts involving government agencies who are up to no good.

I could tell you that "The Man Who Knew Too Little" is a pastiche on Hitchcock as the title certainly points you in that direction. I could also tell you it is a "James Bond" spoof with Wallace ending up in the world of agents and terrorism. But in truth "The Man Who Knew Too Little" is a movie with a single joke and a single actor and no matter how much you love Bill Murray it wears thin incredibly quickly before then going stupid.

Joanne Whalley in The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997)

The single joke is that Wallace Ritchie thinks he is participating in some "Theatre of Life" completely oblivious that in fact he is in a very real situation and very real danger. Now the idea itself is an okay one and mixing the areas of Hitchcock and spy movie to spoof is in itself okay but it needed more than just watching Wallace naively get himself in and out of trouble. It starts off okay and is quite imaginative but the joke runs dry long before you even reach the half way point.

Now if any one stood an earthly of making this work it was Billy Murray as not only is he a likeable actor but his style of laid back humour would have been perfect. Except instead of getting Murray's normal style of humour we just have him playing the inept fool oblivious to it all and it is not great. If there had been more variation then it would have been a different matter but playing it as being stupid the entire movie grows boring. Sadly even the supporting cast of familiar faces including Joanne Whalley and Peter Gallagher fail to distract from the one joke humour.

What this all boils down to is that "The Man Who Knew Too Little" has some reasonable ideas but the fact the entire movie relies on just one joke quickly makes it tiresome and even the great Bill Murray isn't able to make one joke last 90 minutes no matter how much you like him.