The Man Who Knew Too Little

The Man Who Knew Too Little (Jon Amiel, 1997) wr. Robert Farrar, Howard Franklin; Bill Murray

Roger Ebert wrote about movies, but he could have written about anything insightfully. I happened to watch this film because it was on free-to-air, and was puzzled about my own confused reaction. So I went to IMDb's critics links and read the one at the top, which is always (in 2023) that of Roger Ebert (or, since he died in 2013, one of the editorial staff on that website.).

Ebert writes that the funniest thing about this film is its title, which made me stop and think. (It relates to two Hitchcock films called The Man Who Knew Too Much, 1934, 1956.) Like other critics, Ebert makes the point that the 94 minute flick depends entirely on one joke: Murray's character thinks he is playing an improv game, whereas in fact he is dealing with professional assassins. Everything depends on words having two different meanings.

From the beginning, I was thinking that Bill Murray's work always depends on a good script, as he doesn't do physical comedy – in fact is never required to act much. For example, one of his successes, Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003) depends as much simply on his height for its comic effect as much as anything else. (It's set in Japan where almost everyone else is nearly a foot shorter than his 6'2".)

Throughout the film (which does not vary) I was wanting Murray to be funny, but wasn't sure why he was not. Reading about it after viewing, I discovered that the script was co-written by the novelist on whose book it was based. It may have worked better on the page than on the screen.

References and Links

IMDb page
Wikipedia page

Garry Gillard | reviews | New: 1 July, 2023 | Now: 1 July, 2023