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Johnny English (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)

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Album Review

The idea behind Edward Shearmur's score for the film Johnny English is simple. The picture is a James Bond parody in which British comedian Rowan Atkinson transfers his Mr. Bean character, a rude, ignorant Englishman, into the spy genre. (The original version of the screenplay was even written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, the writers of the two previous actual Bond films, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day.) So, Shearmur's job, which he has executed efficiently in the past in such similar exercises as Charlie's Angels, was to produce music that recalled the music from a Bond film, i.e., the souped-up sound of John Barry and Monty Norman. He achieves this without trouble, employing the same slashing strings and twangy guitar effects so familiar from the Bond series. The music has something more of an electronica/dance music style (recent Bond scores have had that, too), but is lacking the sense of humor you might hope for in a satire. Johnny English is oriented more toward European than American audiences, and the inclusion of a high-profile leadoff song by Robbie Williams, who, as of 2003, was a big international music star but hadn't yet broken in America, underscores that. The same might be said about the inclusion of female string quartet Bond's "Kismet." (Note that the final track, "Agent No. 1," isn't really 15 minutes long. It runs four minutes, followed by nine minutes of dead silence, then a two-minute piano and trumpet coda, one of the more irritating "hidden tracks" to be found on a CD, since the gap is so long and what finally turns up isn't worth waiting for.)

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