Film: The Man Who Knew Too Little

Wallace: Was that a tear? ...How do you people do it? Did you... poke yourself in the eye? Or are you thinking right now: "My dog is dead"?
Lori: What's the matter with you? Are you enjoying this?
Wallace: Enormously. "My dog is dead." [pokes himself in the eye] "My dog is dead."

A 1997 film written by Robert Farrar (adapted from his novel Watch That Man) and starring Bill Murray, which combines And You Thought It Was a Game with Mistaken for Badass.

Wallace Ritchie is an American vacationing in London, hoping to spend his birthday with his brother Jimmy (Peter Gallagher). Unfortunately, James has an important business dinner; in order to get rid of Wallace for the evening, he signs him up for an evening with the Theatre of Life, an experimental hyper-realistic audience-participation theater.

Wallace receives information, via a phone call, about the character he should play; unknown to him, the calls get mixed up, and he instead receives instructions intended for a real hit-man. Hilarity Ensues.

Wallace proceeds to ham his way through the underworld of secret agents and espionage. He almost immediately decides to break from "the script" and help the person he was ordered to kill: Lori (Joanne Whalley), a call-girl with a heart of gold who's trying to blackmail the Defence Minister she's been sleeping with. Along the way, Wally accidentally convinces his "superiors" that he's a loose cannon who knows of their devious scheme to restart the Cold War by blowing up the dignitaries at a historic peace accord. And all the while, Wallace thinks the bullets, Truth Serums, car chases and dead bodies are All Part of the Show.

It should be noted that, beyond the similar titles title which is obviously a reference (and superficial plot similarities), this film has nothing to do with Hitchcock's thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much.

This film provides examples of:

  • And You Thought It Was a Game
  • Anticlimax Cut: In one scene, Wallace tells Lori that he's not completely a good guy, that if she wants his help, she'll have to do something for him. The dialogue is set up to make the viewer think Wallace is talking about sex... then the scene cuts to Wallace driving Lori's Mini Cooper.
  • Artistic License Geography: Possibly an intentional use: During James' business presentation, the map of Germany is shown. The major cities are labelled... with the names of other German cities.
  • Axe Before Entering: Used as a blatant Shout-Out to The Shining. For extra points, he uses a croquet mallet, which is similar to what Jack Torrance used in the original novel.
  • Balcony Escape: Wallace prefers doing this for the film because its much more dramatic than the more conventional method. Since he isn't that strong, he has trouble doing it.
  • Bang Bang BANG: "Whoa that was loud."
  • The Baroness: Dr Ludmilla Kropotkin averts the superficial aspects of the "evil torturer lady" stereotype. But Wallace's familiarity with that particular trope leads him to mistake the first septuagenerian dominatrix he meets for Dr Kropotkin.
  • Black Comedy: Referenced and played with. Wallace Ritchie is just having fun gawking at the elaborate "sets" and the performances of his fellow "actors", but Lori interprets his light-hearted demeanour around so much death and danger as a sign that he is an emotionally-stunted hitman with a seriously depraved sense of humour.
    • At the end where Wallace is being recruited to be an assassin, he believes they are hiring him to be an actor and offers to do the work for free for children and old people.
  • Born Lucky: Wallace.
  • The Butcher: Boris Blavasky. In this case, it has a dual meaning — "Butcher" because his work as a spy/hitman is so brutal and messy, but also because "butcher" is actually his day job.
    Sergei: Why so gloomy? Is better than being butcher.
    Boris: I like being butcher. You know exactly who you are killing... and why.
  • Cleanup Crew: Averted. Boris wants to use his favourite "messy" interrogation technique, but his assistants dissuade him, because "It is fun for you, but we have to clean up afterward!"
  • Contrived Coincidence: One right after the other. This movie pretty much runs on it.
  • Cringe Comedy
  • Deadly Road Trip
  • Defeat Means Friendship: After his assassination attempts of Wallace fails for the umpteenth time, Boris gains so much respect for him that he embraces Wallace, gives him a gun of sentimental value and announces his intention to retire and become a butcher full time.
  • Did the Earth Move for You, Too?: "Wow, that felt like an explosion."
  • The Fool: Wallace.
  • French Maid: Lori's costume in her introductory scene.
  • Hey, Catch!: "You've got to see just how dead they are. They might be able to catch this!"
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Sir Roger and Sergei get blown up by their own bomb.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Lori, though she insists she's not a call-girl. Even though she accepted money for sex with the Minister of Defence.
  • I Always Wanted To Do That: Knocking over traffic cones during a car chase.
  • Inspector Oblivious
  • Instant Sedation
  • Lingerie Scene / Stocking Filler: Lori's introduction.
  • Mistaken for Badass, of course.
  • Mistaken for Spies
  • Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon
  • The Noun Who Verbed: The title.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Ninety-four solid minutes of this trope.
  • Performance Anxiety:
    James: [Wallace] got the lead part in the school play, but on opening night... I never knew it was possible for someone to forget so much so quickly without a severe blow to the head.
  • The Precarious Ledge: Played with and Lampshaded: "There's a hallway! We can walk"
  • Professional Killer: Spencer, Boris, and The Plumbers. All are Hitmen rather than Assassins.
  • Reactive Continuous Scream: Happens when Wallace and Lori find a dead body.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: Often cited as a flaw in the film is that Wallace never realises the whole thing is real, leaving the movie feeling like a long joke with some amusing bits along the way but no actual punchline.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Viewing the events of the movie from the point of view of the actual spies can lead to a wildly different interpretation of Wallace. He comes off as an absurdly skilled (even by badass standards) rogue agent who is doing everything he does just for laughs, and that it's so easy for him, he can afford to goof around and just do whatever amuses him at the time. Among his many deeds include pretending like he's going to execute Lori, for no reason whatsoever, playing with a dead body and applauding it for being so remarkably dead, and running over traffic cones while fleeing assassins, simply because he's always wanted to do it and now seemed like a good time. Basically, to those not in on the joke (Everyone but Wallace), he might as well be the super-spy version of The Joker.
  • Shout-Out: The man disguised as a waiter who approaches Wallace in the end of the film is addressed as "Venkman."
    • When Boris leaves his minions alone with Wallace he instructs them "...and watch that man." — referencing the source material of the film.
  • Spy Speak: "Remember to flush."
  • Standard Snippet: Korobeiniki, a traditional Russian folk song, features in this film. Of course, most of you know it as "The Tetris Theme".
  • That Russian Squat Dance
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else: Wallace expects Dr Kropotkin, the "evil torturer lady", to look the part. She doesn't.
  • Truth Serum: Except no one believes Wallace when he's under the influence.
    Boris the Butcher: Who you are working for?
    Wallace Ritchie: Blockbuster Video, Des Moines Iowa.
    Boris the Butcher: Who you are working for?
    Wallace Ritchie: Blockbuster Video, Des Moines Iowa!
    Boris the Butcher: Damn! They train them so well!
  • Unusual Euphemism: In addition to the aforementioned "Remember to flush", there's "Spencer knows how to deal with floaters! Tell him to use a plunger or we're sunk!"
  • Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: Sir Roger and Sergai's motivation.