The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Jon Amiel directed this satire on mistaken-identity thrillers and the spy genre, scripted by Robert Farrar, Tim John, and Oliver Butcher from Farrar's unpublished novel, Watch That Man. In the female lead, Joanne Whalley returned to films after a three-year absence, choosing to do so with director Amiel. Farrar's Hitchcockian-style story focuses on naive Blockbuster Video clerk Wallace Ritchie (Bill Murray) who travels from Des Moines, Iowa, to London to celebrate his birthday with his wealthy younger brother, James (Peter Gallagher). When he turns up on the same night that James has plans to attend a high-profile client dinner party (that he hopes will bring him millions from a German investment firm), James needs to keep Wallace away during the evening, so he gives Wallace a ticket to the participatory Theater of Life. The theater game requires Wallace to assume a character and interact with actors portraying people in dramatic situations. At the corner phone booth, the initial call should begin the evening of innocent fun. However, the phone instructions Wallace receives are actually intended for an assassin, part of a scheme to end the current UK regime and revive the Cold War. The real assassin gets the call from the Theater of Life. Blissfully unaware, Wallace walks without fear into a complex web of intrigue involving defense ministers, call girls, and Russian hitmen. For Wallace, all the world's a stage, and he's amazed at the skill of the actors, including beautiful enigmatic Lori (Joanne Whalley) -- while Wallace's pursuers are mystified by their adversary's fearlessness in the face of threats, torture and bullets. Farrar got the idea for this comedy from a chance remark at a party: "The inspiration came from a dinner party, when somebody told me about these strange live theater performances which were all the rage in England in the '80s. The idea was to telephone for instructions if you wanted to take part. My immediate reaction was, 'Wouldn't it be fabulous if somebody got the wrong number, and it all went hopelessly wrong?'" Filming took place in London's East End (Three Mills Studios), at a variety of London locations, and just outside London at the Elstree Film Studios.
PG (adult situations/language, violence)
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In Theaters:
Warner Home Video

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Bill Murray
as Wallace Ritchie
Peter Gallagher
as James Ritchie
Geraldine James
as Ludmilla
Richard Wilson
as Daggenhurst
John Standing
as Embleton
Simon Chandler
as Hawkins
Anna Chancellor
as Barbara Ritchie
John Thomson
as Dimitri
Janet Henfrey
as Ms. Goldstein
Terry O'Neill
as Spenser
Donald Pickering
as Sir Duncan
Venetia Barrett
as Sir Duncan's Wife Felicity
Terence Harvey
as Herr Schuster
Cate Fowler
as Frau Schuster
Sarah Crowden
as Sylvia/Fiona
Barnaby Kay
as Swat Team Leader/PC in James'
Adam Fogerty
as Newman
Inday Ba
as Des
Linda Broughton
as Middle-Aged Woman
David Boyce
as Middle-Aged Man
Jo Dow
as Hotel Manager
Bob Holmes
as Husband in Hotel Room
Paul Shearer
as TV Reporter
Yoshinori Yamamoto
as Japanese Man
Toshie Ogura
as Japanese Woman
Charles Simon
as Aged Desk/Night Clerk
Roger Morlidge
as PC Cochrane
Ashley Gunstock
as Second Policeman in Car
Judith Dawson
as TV Newscaster
David Michaels
as MI5 Agent
Damian Myerscough
as Stage Manager
Jason Round
as Policeman
Andrew Woodall
as Det. Sgt. Malloy
Malcolm Storry
as Chief Insp. Cockburn
Eddie Marsan
as Mugger No. 1
Tat Whalley
as Mugger No. 2
Fred Whitham
as Toastmaster
Daryll Kay
as Liveried Child
Linzi Lazlo-Carr
as Liveried Child
Richard Cubison
as Immigration Officer
Sarah Greene
as TV Presenter
Mike Smith
as TV Presenter
J.E. Freeman
as CIA Man
Maxwell Caulfield
as British Agent
Mike Justus
as Waiter
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Critic Reviews for The Man Who Knew Too Little

All Critics (32) | Top Critics (7)

A one-note mix-up.

December 31, 1999
USA Today
Top Critic

...a misguided and terminally unfunny disaster that's rarely as appealing or entertaining as star Bill Murray's typically charismatic performance.

Full Review… | May 4, 2015
Reel Film Reviews

You have to be a Bill Murray fan, or in an especially generous mood, to find The Man Who Knew Too Little more than mildly amusing.

Full Review… | September 27, 2007

This is the kind of thing Murray and Amiel could do in their sleep. So they do.

November 5, 2005

After a decade or so of lackluster, what-were-they-thinking? movies, Murray has finally come back to himself

Full Review… | August 6, 2005

Murray elevates the material in this amusing spy farce.

February 24, 2005
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

Audience Reviews for The Man Who Knew Too Little


It's a thin premise: a regular guy gets caught up in international intrigue, the spy game, without being aware of it. And so it becomes a personality vehicle instead. Guess who's personality? It works sometimes, but mostly not.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer



Lucas Martins
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer

A one-joke comedy that wants to carry the absurdity of its premise throughout the entire plot. At first it is a funny idea but it wears out faster than expected, with not many smart twists to keep the story fresh, but at least Bill Murray makes it an amusing experience.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

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