The Man Who Knew Too Little

too-little-poster“I didn’t think someone could forget so much so fast without a severe blow to the head.”

The Scoop 1997 PG, directed by Jon Amiel and starring Bill Murray, Joanne Whalley, Peter Gallagher, and Alfred Molina

Tagline: The international intelligence community is about to get a lot less intelligent.

Summary Capsule: Oblivious American takes on the role of British spy


Justin’s Rating: Do you ever think about that dogs have leg-pits? Isn’t that weird?

Justin’s Review: If you’ve ever babysat a kid between the ages of 4 and 10, you know how psychotic they can get about their movies. During that age range, they just aren’t interested in the wide array of human expression found on celluloid — they find one movie they like, and they develop a crippling obsession with it. They’ll watch the same film three times a day, eagerly pushing it on parents, friends, babysitters, and random mailmen like it was Moving Picture Heroin. “Come, watch with me,” they’d always say. “It’s good!”

“No thanks, I’ve seen that dumb Disney flick five times already, and that was about four times past my upchuck point,” you’d reply. “Now go away until you develop some taste.”

I say all this because sometimes one just never grows out of that stage, even when girls start to become a factor in life. My college roomate Lance was a fine individual in many respects, other than his freakish attempts to shave his legs (for amusement value only), braid his hair (ditto), curl his hair (ditto), or start to randomly complain about having to wear clothes period. But when it came to the Bill Murray vehicle The Man Who Knew Too Little, Lance was that 5-year old kid all over again. We watched it ALL THE TIME. Had friends up to the room? The Man Who Knew Too Little. Making out with girls? The Man Who Knew Too Little. Finals week and cramming last-minute for an English lit exam? The Man Who Knew Too Little.

Fortunately for those of us who lived with him (me and a cat we both didn’t like much), this is a pretty funny little movie, and it doesn’t run much over an hour and a half. Plus, Murray is some sort of lower class god when it comes to playing two roles: the sarcastic grumpy guy (Ghostbusters) or the zany, out-of-it wacko (What About Bob?).

This movie is the second one, with Murray playing Wally, an overenthusiastic American in England. He’s somewhat of a bumbling fool, who is unconciously tormenting everyone he meets while having a great time himself. To get rid of him for the evening, Wally’s brother enlists him in a game of “Theatre of Life”, a staged interactive spy adventure. Wally happily accepts, and through Movie Logic, ends up stumbling onto a real spy operation instead. Even though he doesn’t ever realize it.

Before you dismiss this as some sort of low-rent Austin Powers and make me smack you with a two day-old dead carp, give it a hard think. This is Murray. He’s like watching a duck with three feet try to pass a sobriety test. Maybe that doesn’t make any sense, but I know you tried to picture it and probably found it humorous, and so is Bill Murray.

The jokes come free and clear, with Wally’s “I’m in the know” conversational tone (even though he’s very far removed from knowing what’s going on) and his ability to stay alive and one step ahead of the bad guys. Nearly every other line holds double meaning, one being what’s really going on, and one being the delusional world that Wally is operating from. I love how one of the hired assassins, a butcher named Boris, is constantly frustrated by the elite prowess of our spy.

At the core, The Man Who Knew Too Little tells us that even when completely misinformed, any average American citizen could smack down James Bond in a toodle. I guess we’re just born with that level of savvy and suavitĂ©.

This right here. Bask in it.

This right here. Bask in it.


  • This is the last Murray movie that has him looking like in his 40s – he’s aged twenty years in a few years
  • Pocket Rocket – great term for short people
  • The assassin in the last scene is called “Venkman” – a reference to star Bill Murray’s character in Ghostbusters.
  • In a scene in the hotel, a character is shown watching Jon Amiel’s earlier film, Copycat.

Groovy Quotes

Richie: I didn’t think someone could forget so much so fast without a severe blow to the head.

Wally: Was that a tear? How do you people do it? Do you poke yourself in the eye? Or are you thinking right now, “My dog is dead.”
Lori: What’s the matter with you? You enjoying this?
Wally: Enormously. [to himself] “My dog is dead.”

Police Officer: May I see your driver’s license?
Wally: No you may NOT!

Wally: [on answering machine] Richie, I kissed that girl I was with earlier, and she has lips like your sofa!

Wally: Sorry I get a little bit insensitive, but I’m a hitman!

Wally: [during a shootout] Time out! I got something in my eye!

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