The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997) Flashback Review

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The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997)
Director: Jon Amiel
Starring: Bill Murray, Joanne Whalley, Peter Gallagher

In “The Man Who Knew Too Little”, Wallace Ritchie is mistaken for an American spy on a mission to stop the assassination of world peace leaders. The movie follows the comical blockbuster store manager turned secret agent as he battles with issues of love, family, and, potentially, a third world war.

Now, if you’re looking for a good old fashioned Bill Murray movie, other than “Ghostbusters” of course, this is it. For classic or die-hard Murray fans, this film captures his comedy when it was developed enough to have a reliable structure, but not so old as to be tiring. Starring as Wallace Ritchie, Murray captures Ritchie’s attitudes in a way that make him seem lovably foolish instead of annoyingly bumbling. Because of this, the movie was charming, but several aspects of the film are questionable and detract from the overall enjoyment.

For instance, the most obvious error was a giant plot hole that left the audience with tons of questions. Without really giving anything away, Wallace Ritchie and his brother James, played by Peter Gallagher, have an altercation with the cops that not only threatens to reveal Wallace as the “mysterious” spy in question, but also threatens a very important business venture for James. As a subplot, this information would add to the story as a whole if it were not for the fact that the director and screenwriters seemingly forgot about it half way through the production. After a climactic scene involving a swat team and accusations of murder, the subplot was dropped completely to accommodate an already action-packed storyline.

Something else that seemed off to me was the age difference between Murray, who at the time was 47 years old, and his leading lady Lori, played by 33-year-old Joanne Whalley. Admittedly, the film industry does have a history of pairing older men with younger women. Consider, for instance, that 57-year-old Denzel Washington’s love interest in his movie “Flight,” was played by 35-year-old Kelly Reilly. It can be argued that in comparison, the age difference between Murray and Whalley was not nearly as drastic as it could have been, but it still seemed very distinct. It might have been the fact that I grew up watching Murray movies and have seen him grow and age as an actor, or it simply could have been how young Whalley looked in contrast to him in this film, but the age difference was definitely, uncomfortably noticeable.

Generally, the leading actors did a great job with the script they were given. I’m not totally complaining about the writing, either. Honestly, whether or not you’d enjoy this movie would heavily depend on your appreciation for Bill Murray and your want to see classic, slap-stick comedy. This is a film that you’d have to approach with the idea of mindless pleasure instead of critical watching – something you might be looking for in a “family movie night” film.

Overall, the acting was enjoyable and the writing had it’s cute, funny moments, despite the holes in the plot. This film was neither good nor bad, but rather, somewhere in between. It had an average musical score with average shot types and scenes you would expect for a “mistaken identity/spy” movie. It was enjoyable, yes, but it wasn’t really stand-out amazing or shocking in any way. Because of this, the film gets a…

13/24