The Man Who Knew Too Little

The Man Who Knew Too Little
The Man Who Knew Too Little
Directed by Jon Amiel
Produced by Arnon Milchan
Michael Nathanson
Mark Tarlov
Written by Novel:
Robert Farrar
Robert Farrar
Howard Franklin
Starring Bill Murray
Peter Gallagher
Joanne Whalley
Alfred Molina
Richard Wilson
Geraldine James
John Standing
Anna Chancellor
Music by Christopher Young
Cinematography Robert M. Stevens
Editing by Pamela Power
Studio Regency Enterprises
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) November 14, 1997
Running time 94 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Man Who Knew Too Little is a 1997 American comedy espionage film starring Bill Murray, directed by Jon Amiel, and written by Robert Farrar and Howard Franklin. The film is based on Farrar's novel Watch that Man, and the title is a parody of Alfred Hitchcock's 1934 film The Man Who Knew Too Much and its 1956 remake of the same title.


Wallace Ritchie (Murray) flies from Des Moines, Iowa to England to spend his birthday with his brother, James (Peter Gallagher), the same evening James is to hold a business dinner. Though James is all too happy to spend time with Wally, his presence threatens to sour the evening, and so James sets Wallace up with an interactive improv theatre business, the "Theatre of Life," which promises to treat the participant as a character in a crime drama. Before the night begins, James hands Wallace a pair of Ambassador cigars, promising to "fire them up" before midnight in celebration of Wally's birthday. Trouble begins when Wallace answers a phone call intended for a hitman at the same payphone that the Theatre of Life uses for its act.

The contact, Sir Roger Daggenhurst (Richard Wilson), mistakes Wallace as a hitman he'd hired, named Spencer- thinking it's part of the act, Wallace uses that identity. The real Spencer (Terry O'Neill) picks up the phone call meant for Wally and murders one of the actors, prompting a search for Wallace. Sir Roger, his assistant Hawkins (Simon Chandler), the British Defense Minister Gilbert Embleton (John Standing), and a Russian intelligence member Sergei (Nicholas Woodeson) plan to detonate an explosive device (disguised as a Matryoshka doll) during a dinner between British and Russian dignitaries, in order to rekindle the Cold War and replace their aging technology.

Still believing he's acting with the Theatre of Life even after he is comedically mugged, Wally meets Lori (Joanne Whalley), Embleton's call-girl- Lori plans to blackmail Embleton for a substantial amount of money using letters that detail the assassination plot. Spencer was hired specifically to eliminate her and destroy the letters. Wallace scares off Embleton when he arrives to look for them, and Spencer is driven off by him and Lori. Fearing their plot will be revealed Daggenhurst hires two "plumbers", while Sergei hires now-inactive spy Boris "The Butcher" Blavasky (Alfred Molina), all charged with eliminating "Spencer". Boris succeeds in killing the real Spencer, but Wallace and Lori come back, retrieving the letters.

When Wallace uses Spencer's communicator during a conversation with Daggenhurst, he tells him that "I know a couple of guys who're hoping to fire up some big Ambassadors, at 11:59", referring to James promise- but since they believe words refer to the assassination plot, both sides believe he is an American spy that has caught on to their scheme. After a police chase ends with Daggenhurst convincing the police that Wallace is a spy, Daggenhurst offers Wallace and Lori 3 million British pounds in return for the letters, at the same hotel where the dinner is taking place. This is a ruse to capture them both and kill them off. All the while Wally gets close to his "co-star" Lori, who confesses she'd love to study acting once they're paid.

James is contacted by Wally moments before he is captured, prompting James to call the Theatre for more time- by this point, the police have interrogated the actors and are waiting for answers from James, who thinks the officer he's talking to is an uncooperative actor. Believing James is an accomplice to the murder, they send a strike team to foil what they believe was a terrorist plot. However, James has already left to seek Wally at the hotel, having seen the news report that Wallace had murdered an actor. Wally meets Boris face-to-face, but Boris' attempts to find out who he's working for with truth serum fails (though in reality it had succeeded when Wally tells them he works for Blockbuster Video). Boris opts for torture by Dr. Rudmilla Kropotkin (Geraldine James), but Wally and Lori escape from their clumsy guards. Lori and Wally separate, while James is captured while looking for Wally- he is sent to be tortured by Kropotkin. Wally unwittingly finds himself as part of a group of Russian folk dancers, using the Matryoshka doll bomb in the act, unwittingly disarming the device seconds before it goes off, unwittingly blocking a poison dart from Boris and completely stealing the show with his improvised dancing.

Realizing their plot has failed, Sergei and Daggenhurst bring out two bags containing the promised 3 million for Wallace and Lori and release James, who is exhausted but otherwise fine after his torture session. Boris congratulates Wallace for his impressive covert skills and gives him a souvenir pistol, telling Wallace he will continue his butcher shop business. Sergei and Daggenhurst attempt to escape with half the money and discover Wally's doll, which they believe is only a normal one he picked out for himself. They are proven wrong when they realign the doll, reactivating the bomb and blowing them up, just as Wally and Lori share a kiss.

Some time later on an exotic beach Wally unwittingly incapacitates a spy (named Venkman, a homage to Murray's character in Ghostbusters), passing a test by an unknown American espionage group. Believing he is capable of being a top agent, they offer him a position on "the team". Thinking that they wish to make him a movie star, Wallace accepts their offer. The movie ends with Wallace persuading them to act like dogs, desperate to have him join them.


External links

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