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'The Man Who Knew Too Little'

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 14, 1997

After a sluggish first act, this Bill Murray 007 spoof finally delivers some serious belly laughs. But unlike it’s more sophomoric cousin, "Austin Powers," it lacks the manic energy that powers screwball comedy.

Though unsustained by the pep or plot, the premise is clever: Wallace (Murray), an affable doofus from Des Moines, pays a surprise visit to his wealthy, London-based brother, James (Peter Gallagher), on the night James is hosting a high-profile dinner party. James and his wife, fearful that Wallace will embarrass them, buy him a ticket to the "Theater of Life," a participatory drama in which the ticket-holder assumes a character and joins the actors playing out high drama in real-life settings.

The show always begins with a phone call specifying a character name and place to meet, but Wallace unknowing intercepts a real call and is mistaken for a secret agent by a cabal of Cold Warriors bent on bringing back the good old days. Blissfully unaware of the real danger and just plain lucky, Wallace manages to flummox the evil-doers at every, ridiculous turn.

Murray’s irreverence comes from his naivete, and he’s not so cussed as usual, but he’s a treat regardless. The caper itself is more cloak than dagger.

THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO LITTLE (PG) — Contains cartoon violence, sexuality.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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