Man Who Knew Too Little [1997]

Only die-hard Bill Murray fans will likely consider this movie for their home-video library, but it's not without its rewards. You can see why someone as comically astute as Murray would agree to play a dimwitted American who can't tell the difference between improvised theater and a real-life espionage plot. There's certainly plenty of potential for belly laughs, and Murray milks the opportunities like the old pro that he is. Here he plays an American tourist in London who thinks he's been recruited into a street-theater act called "Theater of Life"; actually, he's stepped into a complicated spy scheme that plays like a cross between Hitchcock and the Marx Brothers. Joanne Whalley costars as the femme fatale who may or may not be a double agent, and along the way there's enough comical confusion to foil any number of idiotic villains. The movie stretches its one-joke premise to desperate extremes (Murray thinks he's in a play, so he's oblivious to genuine danger), and 95 minutes is more than enough time to exhaust the comedic possibilities. But, as always, Murray finds a way to mine gold from a few clever bits, and he cuts loose with some inspired lunacy during a climactic scene involving a hidden bomb and a troupe of dancing Cossacks. It's not Murray's finest hour, but give him credit for making the best out of a challenging situation. --Jeff Shannon

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