I’m not going to lie. There’s something addictive about watching Bill Murray. He, Robin Williams, Jim Carey and several other comedians have a manic charm that you just can’t take your eyes off of. You just don’t know what they’re going to say (or do) next. If only the script of The Man Who Knew Too Little could keep up with Murray’s ad lib hilarity.Murray plays Wally Ritchie (why anyone would name a character that is beyond me…), a Blockbuster Video employee who flies out to England to visit his brother. His brother, Jimmy (Peter Gallagher), is a big shot business man and has a very important business meeting that night. Not wanting to risk the embarrassment of having his eccentric brother around, Jimmy sends Wally to the hottest production in London: “The Theater of Life,” interactive theater done in the real world, with actors pretending to be actual people and the audience member playing a role in the production. Instead, Wally gets caught up in an international assassination plot meant to bring back the Cold War. All the ensuing comedy comes from Murray’s character thinking it’s a live, interactive theater production.
Some of it was actually funny. Murray has a hilarious scene with some muggers, asking them to let him do his scene with multiple takes. He also feels free to lead the cops on a high speed chase and then mock them when he gets pulled over. They gasp when he does all the things they wish they could do if they weren’t trying to uphold the law. And when Murray makes a scene at his brother’s home with the investors there, they’re simply told “he’s in the movie industry.”
The majority of movie, however, is just sad. The one joke wears out pretty quickly and anything sometimes the film just feels like its forcing things. Old people doing S&M is more disturbing than funny. The worst part is the ending, with several people learning “life lessons.” Wally’s brother realizes he should care more about family instead of business. I wasn’t sure if I should cry for the depth of emotion or for the utter stupidity of it all. I decided just to shrug.
The worst part about the movie was its disturbingly detached reaction to death. Several scenes involved dead people and were meant to be funny but I didn’t find anything comical about them. At least one involved a completely innocent person being killed. It was meant to be ironic, as he was an actor playing a gun wielding hood. And I’m not some censorship freak. It’s just that making death funny is a difficult thing. If you can’t do it, don’t try.If you’re fine with seeing the same joke played over and over again for an hour and a half, feel free to give The Man Who Knew Too Little a shot. There are definitely some chuckle-worthy scenes there, but there are plenty of better places to see Bill Murray really shine as an actor and a comedian. Maybe that’s this man knowing too much.