The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997) Poster

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Excellent parody!
wipster6 March 2004
Anybody who didn't enjoy this movie didn't get it... it was one of the most hilarious parodies I've ever seen. But, perhaps the circumstances of my initial viewing overly influenced my opinion. On a business trip to DC in 1998, I saw "The Game" with Michael Douglas and Sean Penn on the way out... great movie, but very heavy and deep. However on the way back, this movie was playing. Based on initial reviews I wasn't expecting much, but watching it was like someone purposely made a funny version of The Game, and I probably annoyed my fellow passengers as I was laughing so hard. I thought Murray was at his best, not unlike Chevy Chase in the Fletch movies (shame they didn't make more of those), as they were both in their comical element.

The coincidental (or perhaps not) pairing of these two films really added to my enjoyment of both. On a cold rainy weekend, I strongly recommend renting both and watching them in the same order I did… you won't be disappointed!
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First of all....I loved it.
gagliano13 February 2000
First of all....I loved it. Simply put, this film was great. Talk about a story that could have been based upon true life incidents is not what this film is about. This is comedy at its best. Bill Murray's character is a man who manages a Blockbuster-video store someplace in Iowa. Murray decides to take a vacation and visit his brother in London. His brother (Peter Gallagher) is entertaining some important clients that same evening and sends his brother (Murray) out to participate in this audience-interaction play involving spies called the `Theater of Life'. Well, as the play begins, Murray accidentally stumbles into a real-life spy drama and takes everything that happens next as if he is just acting in a play. The result is non-stop humor which leaves the audience busting up outloud. You don't have to love Bill Murray to love this film...he brings to the screen the best parts of his roles in "Scrooged", "Stripes", "Ground Hog Day" and "What About Bob" just have to be ready to experience Bill Murray at his best. Bottom line, what might even be funnier than the film, is being part of an uninhibited audience, because once some people begin laughing, they will be at it for the next two hours.
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The Comedy of Errors, or nothing to do with Shakespeare, as interpreted by a Theater of the Absurd theater company
jotix10029 August 2005
Jon Amiel's "The Man Who Knew Too Little" is one of the funniest movies that keeps the viewer in a laughing state all the time. Mr. Amiel shows an affinity to comedy as he takes us along for a fun ride into this amusing movie. The film is based on the funny Robert Farrar book, who also adapted the material for the screen.

This film is a sort of comedy of errors in which an innocent man is drawn into an international conspiracy that he has no clue is going on around him because his brother, in order to get him away from his dinner party, decides to treat him to a performance of a play in which the viewer is part of the show.

Little does Wally Ritchie realize what he has gotten into. That's the basic premise for the film, which works well because Wally doesn't suspect what he's involved in. So he goes along for the fun of it, thinking nothing about the bad guys that are trying to get rid of him, for real.

Bill Murray proves he is one of the best comedy actors working today. The sequence involving Mr. Murray dancing with a Russian folk group at the hotel where something terrible is set to occur is just pure perfection. Mr. Murray is a likable actor and never makes himself obnoxious in any situation. He is a delight to watch.

The rest of the cast is good. Peter Gallagher is Wally's brother. Joanne Whalley makes a perfect femme fatale. Alfredo Molina has some excellent moments as Boris, the butcher, the man who wants to eliminate Wally out of the picture.

"The Man Who Knew Too Little" is a fun film to watch thanks to Jon Amiel.
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One of the Greatest Comedy Tour De Forces in Film History!
ddrucker27 December 2004
How could so many people miss this amazing performance? Bill Murray pulls off something that hadn't been done since the days of Harold Lloyd: a character who always succeeds despite the fact that he thinks that everything is a game. Like Lloyd's blindfolded wanderings on suspended buildings many stories in the air where he never falls down or gets hurt, Murray triumphs as a super-secret-agent when he thinks the entire thing is a parlor game, a bit of 'real life theatre'. The twists and turns of the plot, the misunderstandings and misinterpretations by everyone around him just add to the giddiness of the whole film. I have rarely been so disappointed when I had to finally concede that it was the end of the story. Give this a second look if you dismissed it as just a silly movie. It's a classic, and one of my 10 best movies of all time.
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BRILLIANT and overlooked
MartinHafer29 May 2005
Although this movie is not quite as funny as What About Bob, I think this is probably Bill Murray's second funniest film, though I strongly doubt if it will be enjoyed as much by the average viewer. That is because, I hate to say, the "average viewer" often is a teenager or adult who likes their comedy very broad and simple. No, this will not appeal to fans of Porky's or Little Nicky because it requires the viewer to have a reasonable attention-span and the ability to enjoy a comedy that doesn't telegraph what will happen next (just how many movies these days are hard to predict anyways?).

The movie is a screwy, difficult to describe spy adventure where everyone knows just how deadly the stakes are---except for Bill Murray's character. He mistakenly thinks everything that is happening around him is a type of performance art (sort of a Theatre of the Absurd). You MUST watch it.
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A perfect vehicle for Bill Murray
wmpcarrick4 June 2005
This poorly worded title is a wonderfully absurd farce. London is a perfect backdrop for Bill Murray to perform his shtick as Wallace Ritchie. The supporting cast play to their purposeful stereotypes and most importantly don't get in Murray's way. Peter Gallagher (of 'Orange County' fame) plays a very good straight man as Murray's brother, and Joanne Whalley seems to be playing her part and enjoying watching Murray's performance at the same time. There is a generous supply of double entendres, predictable, but well written and funny. This movie can be enjoyed by families as well as 'adults only'. Don't expect a life changing event, just enjoy a fun movie.
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It's summer, it's hot, kids are home, time to kick back.
Ralph Michael Stein29 June 2002
With my son out-of-school, it's a bit trickier getting time to see the films I really enjoy. TRANSLATION: it's that time of year for a lot of rentals of films he likes and I can handle. After a tough day of lounging by the pool, another viewing of "The Seventh Seal" won't fly.

But Bill Murray in "The Man Who Knew Too Little" gives us that perfect summertime, late night film. Murray stars as a bumbling, clueless American who pops into London unexpected and uninvited so his Master of the Universe brother can celebrate his birthday. Trouble is the brother and his wife are entertaining visitors from Germany for a business presentation and Murray can't fit in. His brother has to make him disappear for the evening.

Which leads to the complex plot. Given a ticket for a live, interactive, TV show without walls (or a specific locale), Murray stumbles into a plot by a top British spymaster and his Soviet counterpart to pull off a midnight assassination of two ambassadors, thus wrecking a treaty ending the Cold War (and their lucrative, paranoia-tinged careers). Believing he's in a very big show, and with - of course - suitable and gorgeous female assistance he hits a lot of London (sometimes literally).

A little dated, I'm not so sure we wouldn't welcome some of the uncertainties and stresses of the Cold War for the unfolding enigma of international relations today. Hey, I shouldn't get serious and neither does Murray as he blunders about dispatching assassins and bystanders with ease.

This is a very physical comedy, Murray's forte. There isn't a serious idea in the script and the outcome is as predictable as May drizzle in London. But my kid couldn't stop laughing and that's good enough for me.
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The Good & Bad Of 'The Man Who Knew Too Little'
ccthemovieman-114 October 2006
HE GOOD - This was better than I expected, especially after reading some negative reviews on it. Bill Murray is perfect for his role. There are several scenes I just laughed out loud. He had some funny lines. The film moves well and the comedy is generally good. Joanne Whalley-Kilmer is usually nice to watch

THE BAD - The only weak part, unfortunately, was the last 20 minutes. Also, this is basically a one-joke movie and that joke can begin to tire after about 40 minutes. I didn't care for Peter Gallagher's role.

OVERALL - Like "Groundhog Day," a good vehicle for Murray's humor makes it an entertaining film, but I'd rent it before buying it.
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Funny if slight
bob the moo6 September 2002
Wally Ritchie flies from America to visit his brother in London for his birthday. However James has a business meeting and needs Wally out of the way for the evening. He books Wally onto a new murder-evening style experience where you get to play the character of an secret agent or the like. However Wally answers the wrong phone call and is mistaken for hitman Spenser. Following the instructions of the call, Wally becomes involved in a plot to start the cold war again by killing a mix of Ambassadors. Blissfully unaware Wally sets out to foil the plot.

This is one of those films that I'd kept meaning to see for ages but never got round to it. So when I finally did I maybe had too high expectations for it. So for the first 20 minutes I was a little impatient and was bothered that I wasn't really enjoying it or laughing very much. However once I got past this I relaxed and started to enjoy it.

The plot is mush and even if you take it seriously, all the pieces don't fit together and the plot doesn't make a lot of sense. However ignore all this plot nonsense – this is all about Wally stumbling from one misunderstanding to another lucky occurrence. We're not in the realms of classic comedy here and it certainly isn't hilarious. Rather it's funny and enjoyable – in that, even when I wasn't smiling I still had a fixed grin on my face.

Murray is the film's saviour. He stumbles around so very well and makes even the most basic misunderstanding funny. Gallagher is a passable straightman and Walley-Kilmer is decent but really suffers from having to share a screen with Murray. A fleet of British faces make up the rest of the cast – from Molina, Wilson, Woodeson to the sublime John Thomson and faces like Dexter Fletcher and `that guy offa Family Affairs'. To be honest it's all a bit distracting having so many `oh, that's ……' and you do have to try and get past it.

Overall this isn't the funniest thing you'll ever see, but it is enjoyable and will make you smile for 90 minutes, even if the belly laughs are less often than you'd like. Murray runs the show and brings laughs out of the least inspired routines. Well worth a watch if you're in a silly, undemanding mood.
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Joanne Whalley-Kilmer's really cool spoof.
SanDiego10 April 1999
In the film "Scandal," Joanne Whalley-Kilmer played the part of a high priced call girl who has affairs with British politicians, movers, and shakers, and most famously with the British Minister of War. It was based on a true story and Joanne W-K's performance became the highlight of her career. In "The Man Who Knew Too Little," Joanne W-K once again plays this character but for laughs. Kind of neat considering that the two films probably don't share the same audience (which is apparent since so far I am the only reviewer to pick up on this connection, despite the obvious spoof.) When she appeared on screen and I saw she was spoofing her "Scandal" role it was like actually getting one of Dennis Miller's "intellectual" jokes. If you have only seen one of the films you should see the other one too. If you have not seen either start with "Scandal," if not for chronological sake then at least to get the inside joke in the later (plus "Scandal" is a really good film and very timely considering the Clinton-Monica thing). Bill fans (Murray that is) don't worry, he is here in fine form. For movie buffs this film is but a series of spoofs of well-known, and not so well-known mostly film-noir flicks (think watered down Mel Brooks, circa Young Frankenstein, not so broad, not so obvious, but cool when you "get it.") If you're under the age of 35 you probably won't get them (my niece, part of the "money demographic" was shocked to find out that there was actually a movie called "The Man Who Knew Too Much," which explains exactly why the film didn't do better box office.) Most of all, the interest is Joanne Whalley-Kilmer who has brought back to comedic film the wonderful French Maid costume. Once a staple of Vauldeville, Bob Hope comedies, and Pink Panther films, the French Maid's costume should be mandatory for all women endowed with great legs. Oooh La La! Even if you have not seen Hitchcock or British cinema, you never heard of film-noir (let alone pronounce it), and your knowledge of Cold War and foreign spy history is non-existent, there is Joanne W-K's killer bod and cool spoof. And oh yes, Bill Murray's good too.
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Classic comedic timing, hilarious plot, solid cast and good writing...yes, see it!
secondtake30 October 2011
The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997)

There are those who think Bill Murray can do no wrong, that he has an impeccable comic flair and intelligence that drive even mediocre fare. And I'm one of them.

And this is relatively humdrum stuff on one level--though the basic idea of spoofing a spy superstar is as old and reliable as James Bond himself. (I mean, Bond spoofs were around when Sean Connery was still 007.) And the writing is really very witty here, giving two prongs forward in this mostly funny, always fast affair.

That is--I laughed a lot! That's the goal. The cold war themes of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. going head to head were old even in 1997 but of course not old for James Bond, and this does harken back somehow to the original. Murray plays a classic type--the hero who succeeds by accident. Often, it's the absurdity and illogic of this odd hero that makes him successful, surprising the professionals and seeming brazen and original. And so he is.

The plot is simple--some bad guys have a bomb that's going to go off in five hours. We know that at the start, and so the rest is loaded with anticipation and dread as the deadline nears. We also know (in this sort of movie) that no harm will come to Murray's cheerful, doltish American type. So the race against the clock is a series of gags and spoofs and lucky twists, all good for laughs. Murray is the key to it all, playing the naive participant with that uncanny timing and innocent face too well, over and over. If it were only about Murry this would be a 10 star masterpiece. The rest of the cast, and the eventual inevitability of the plot, hold it back, though. So it is what it is, still a great romp.

You want more than that? You won't get it. But why would you? Enjoy.
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Great overlooked comedy
sarastro724 December 2006
He's a bumbling fool who's ungodly lucky. He's a brilliant secret agent, and he thinks he's part of a reality show. He saves the world, and he hasn't got a clue.

It's a superb comedy concept, and one which Bill Murray was born for. What a crime that this did not turn into a series of multiple movies. And what a shame that many people probably don't even know this one exists. It's a true gem.

Also featuring other great actors like the delicious Joanne Whalley (a favorite of mine since The Singing Detective), and the great, great Alfred Molina in one of his best roles ever, as the good-natured but hard-boiled Russian agent Boris the Butcher. Alfred Molina is fantastic. He can play anything; good or evil, handsome or ugly, dignified or foolish. The man is a genius.

But as for Bill Murray; this movie is one of his best ones, and will certainly go down in history as a major comedy classic. When I noticed that the movie is based on a book, I tried to find it, but unfortunately it seems the book is unpublished. Which also means that there weren't any sequels... :-(

Anyway, we have this movie, and it is virtually perfect. Great fun.
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One of the funniest Bill Murray movies
lhumbird13 December 2001
Bill Murray is in his best form in this movie. I bought the DVD version after seeing the VHS version. Just yesterday I watched it twice in a row. I found myself giggling through many of the scenes.

Murray stumbles his way through what he believes is a live-action on-location "Theater of Life", but in reality is an international plot to assassinate Russian and Britain ambassadors and resurrect the Cold War spy game - by the very same high-ranking officials in Britain and Russia who whould oversee it.

The dialog is full of double meanings, as Murray talks in terms of the theater, and everyone else around him is talking in terms of the real-life spy game going on around him. He is unaware of each of his bumbling moves, yet each one is seen as the performance of a highly-trained master spy. The dialog alone is a tightly-crafted jewel. After several viewings it becomes predictable, but Murray's performance admirably carries the entertainment value.
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Bill Murray's one man show
refinedsugar23 October 2001
That more than adequately sums up my feelings of 'The Man Who Knew Too Little'. It's his show. All the way. There is also no denying this is a rather stupid movie because it has to be. The only prerequisite is the situation must be completely implausible and the main character a complete bulb and on those terms this movie passes with flying colors. Wallace Ritchie (Bill Murray) is a man perhaps the furthest thing from ultra cool and sexy a la James Bond. I guess the fact that he is a forty-plus year old man working at Blockbuster is confirmation of just that.

Coming to visit his brother, James (Peter Gallagher), you can see from frame one that James wants nothing more than to get rid of him. Yes, sign him up for some harmless fantasy role-playing and adventure. Where's the harm in that? He's supposed to go to a telephone booth and await fake instructions except when he picks up the phone, it's an actual spook relaying him to go to an address. Seconds later, the real assassin approaches the telephone booth, phone rings and picks it up. It's the game calling. Some man is pretending to beat up a woman across the street as we can see the window and corresponding sound from the telephone. The assassin without emotion calmly walks across the street and mechanically puts three shells in the male actor. A rare moment of dark humor in an otherwise over-the-top silly movie.

The rest follows a pattern of Wallace stumbling around unaware of what he's really involved in and this illusion he can do / say / try anything without consequence of death is weirdly amusing. Of course, furthest from plausible, but having to be as such. If you can shoulder a sporting Bill Murray carrying the weight in order to save a threadbare story you'll find something to like here. Even though by the end, it had worn thin, I had a real good laugh or two and that's more than I can say for most comedies nowadays. A must-watch for Bill Murray fans.
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Laughter from Beginning to End
kchilds-221 April 2001
It's hard to believe that this movie is so little known, because it is Bill Murray's best to date. It is so cleverly done and hilarious, even without the little sly jokes you may not get until the 2nd or 3rd time through. Anyone who loves non-vulgar comedy should watch this movie.
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Great Film
flamestar111 July 2004
This a great parody of Secret Agent movies. Murry plays a dim wit who is given a chance to act in a crime drama but instead becomes involved in an assassination attempt aimed at starting up the Cold War again. Murry thinks that he is playing in an experimental drama while accidentally acting like a super secret agent. Alfred Molina (Doc Ock in the new Spider Man) the most under rated actor in movies today steals the picture as a Russian agent. Joanne Whalley plays the girl to a tea and Peter Gallagher is perfect as the brother. The acting is great and the story is a gem. Every things fits for both Murry and the idea that Murry really is a secret agent. If you are smart like to laugh and like Secret Agent movies you will love this movie.
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Quite Simply: One of the Funniest Movies
Enrique Sanchez29 April 2001
The thing is. After the movie. I kept laughing. I kept smiling and I was compelled to run to my computer and write this review. What is wrong with me? Quite simply: nothing. I was just lucky enough to rent this movie.

This is Bill Murray's comic masterpiece. This is satire with an enormously large Capital S.

This is one of the supreme examples of "comedies of error" and it's entire plot, delivery and acting are worthy of any Shakespearean work of the same genre...and I have seen them all.

I think this movie deserves lauding to the hilt. I am going to make a point of mentioning this movie to as many people as possible. It pales in sheer brilliance to another very early vehicle, Ghostbusters.

For a man who knew to little, I have become a man who knows it all now. I have have experienced Murray's comic genius and this fantastic script. A movie will never be funnier. If you don't finish watching this movie with some old-fashioned guffaws, check yourself into the nearest analyst's couch.

Thanks, Bill. You're an OK kind of guy.
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The Screenwriter Who Knew Nothing.
Python Hyena25 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997): Dir: Jon Amiel / Cast: Bill Murray, Joanne Whalley, Peter Gallagher, Alfred Molina, Richard Wilson: Disappointing spoof of spy movies featuring a man totally unaware of the happenings around him. Bill Murray arrives in London to visit his brother but is introduced to a rare theatre experience. The participants will step into a phone booth where they will receive a call then he literally becomes involved in an act. He believes that he is to play a detective and that those around him are actors. Interesting concept falls into formula until arriving at a nonsense conclusion. Story is just a series of happenings in consistency. Odd choice for director Jon Amiel whose previous film was the dark thriller Copycat. Murray is often hilarious as the guy not quite in on the joke, and he is the one element in the film that holds strong. Supporting roles are not so interesting and often come off as buffoonish. Joanne Whalley as the mysterious woman is a waste because we are never really sure what her mission is to begin with. Frankly, she is nothing more than a potential romantic tease here. Peter Gallagher as Murray's brother overacts. He is basically there to entertain dinner guests and remain out of the picture. Other characters are about as useless as the screenwriter who failed to followup a worthy concept with something worthwhile. It is a satires of spy films that misses by much. Score: 5 ½ / 10
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funny for awhile but gets repetitive
SnoopyStyle18 May 2015
Wallace Ritchie (Bill Murray) flies from Des Moines, Iowa to London on his birthday to surprise his brother James (Peter Gallagher). James can't have Wallace in an important business dinner. James set him up with an improv group which places the participant in a realistic crime drama. However it goes all wrong when Wallace answer the payphone used by the improv group but it turns out to be a man hiring hit-man Spencer to kill call girl Lori (Joanne Whalley). The real Spencer answers the call from the improv group and kills one of the actors. Wallace goes along with the intrigue thinking all the while that it's make-believe.

This is fun for about 30 minutes. Bill Murray is irreverent and stupid. However the one-joke movie gets a bit boring. It becomes rather repetitive and rambling.
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Bill Murray's 'The Party'
chertzy1 May 2007
For anyone who loves Peter Sellers you know that one of his best performances and least known films is 'The Party'. The movie itself if odd, but you love it because it is showcases the quintessential Peter Sellers.

In a like-manner, The Man Who Knew too Little is Bill Murray in his purest form. It too is a bit of an odd movie - the main character is completely out-of-his element (whatever element that is). The more you watch the movie the more of a classic it becomes and the more intriguing the relationship between the comedian and the world becomes. It is the point at which art and comedy become one.

Love it or hate it, The Man Who Knew too Little is brilliant.
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if you like Bill Murray, mysteries, fun, and unpredictable flicks
MonCol22 October 2006
Bill Murray at his best, leading his fellow actors to believability! The genius of this film is that it is the inverse of Groundhog Day - where his character knew the day was replaying over & over & no one else did. In this film, there is European flavor, espionage, political intrigue, all the while everyone else understands reality, and because of trusting circumstances his character determines that they are all playing along to celebrate his birthday. He walks unscathed through truly dangerous scenarios, but brought to humor by the incredulity of it all!!! The dancing Cosack scene was a highlight! This movie is totally fun and as planktonrules says, very overlooked. A very special film on Murray's resume!
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Not his best film, but Murray made it work
vchimpanzee23 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Jimmy Ritchie has reason to be uptight: for his job in London, he is having Germans over to his house for dinner, and he must impress them. So the last thing he needs is for his loser brother Wally to show up. To get rid of him, Jimmy arranges for Wally to be on a reality show, but thanks to a mixup in a phone booth, Wally ends up in a spy caper which is real, only he doesn't know it. He believes all of the people involved are actors, and no matter how violent things appear, Wally thinks everything is being staged. But these are dangerous people: one of the villains wants to restart the cold war. A major treaty is being signed, and someone wants to set off a bomb as it is happening.

Bill Murray is wonderful in this movie. Wally comes across as so confident and able to cope with anything. The situations are hilarious, even though people could easily get killed. Al Molina was good as one of the villains, and I especially liked the incompetent Russians, though I never caught the names.

It was a great effort, though I've seen even better from Bill Murray.

Possible SPOILERS follow:

The dancing for the treaty ceremony was great. Especially since Wally somehow found himself to be one of the dancers!

And one of the highlights of the movie came when Wally, not realizing the seriousness of the situation, found himself with the bomb...

AN EVEN BIGGER ********** SPOILER ***********

... and ended up being the one who would have to disarm it--even though he didn't know what he had!
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One of the most clever comedy I have ever seen.
panasit12 January 2003
The Man Who Knew Too Little is a great movie. Too bad it is not that popular and you will not be able to talk to your friends about it. If it is so good why is it not popular? The critic didn't go too easy on it because the director make several bad choices. Bill Murray is an okay actor for the part (love him in other movies), but they could have done a lot better. As great as it is, it started out extremely slow. And the way they explain the story in the movie itself can be confusing. (the movie came out way before the whole reality TV invasion in America) The plot is simply about a guy who think that he is participating in a spy reality TV when in reality he picks up the phone a little too early and follow the plot line of the REAL spy situation. He of course, thinks that it is all an act and acts stupidly throughout the film. One time a girl he's with would cry and he asked her "how did you do that? Are you thinking right now 'my dog is dead'"? The woman think the main character is sick. But the main character think that the whole thing is just an act. The story is great. But the design itself (camera, lighting, acting, sound, etc.) has the quality of a porno film. If it had more budget in making it and in advertising, the world may not have overlooked this great comedy.
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This is a classic comedy film!
Eric Borgman17 July 2002
This film was a classic the moment it was put together. Bill Murray has never been funnier. He plays his character flawlessly. The supporting cast down to the extras are perfect. It brings to life a type of comedy that has faded in recent years. It is a perfect film. If you like Bill Murray, or the Pink Panther movies, or even good old fashioned comedy, this is the movie to see!
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Contrived but brilliant with it
ListerUK200116 September 2001
The Man Who Knew Too Little may have a contrived premise, but this hardly matters as once the plot gets going it is very very funny.Bill Murray has yet to give anything less than a hysterically funny performance in a film and although no-one comes close to providing as many laughs than he, Richard Wilson makes a very funny villain. It is sad that this film wasn't a big success because it deserves to be.
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