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Film / Johnny English

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Pegasus: English, we can't afford any mistakes. Not tonight.
English: The word "mistake", Sir, is not one that appears in my dictionary.

Johnny English is a comedy film that was released on 11th April, 2003, and directed by Peter Howitt. The movie is considered an Affectionate Parody of the spy movie genre, oftentimes hanging lampshades on several popular spy tropes, from Disposable Love Interest characters to the protagonist being an overwhelmingly confident and suave badass. It features a hearty plateful of the Rule of Funny, a nice smattering of slapstick, and even a light pinch of Self-Deprecation. And Rowan Atkinson.

The story begins when Corrupt Corporate Executive/Big Bad Pascal Sauvage, sets in motion a complex plan, starting with the assassinations of all the spies in Britain with a bomb planted at a funeral. Fortunately, the eponymous Clueless Detective-style Idiot Hero was a safe distance away, so now he finds himself promoted from a cheap low level agent to Designated Hero!


Johnny soon finds himself drawn into Sauvage's scheme and vows to stop him and save Britain, though he doesn't necessarily end up achieving a huge amount in the end via his own personal effort alone. He teams up with a semi-Butt-Monkey Hyper-Competent Sidekick Bough, and together, they form a unique team similar to the Straight Man and Wise Guy, only with levels of competence instead of seriousness. Oftentimes Johnny's juggling act with the Idiot Ball gets Bough, himself, or both of them, into troublesome or injurious situations, causing hilarity or reality to ensue.

Two sequels, Johnny English Reborn and Johnny English Strikes Again, were released in 2011 and 2018 respectively.

The idea for the movie came from Atkinson's Barclaycard commercials from the 1990's about the misadventures of a (slightly) more competent, somewhat smug agent Richard Latham who scoffed at his Hypercompetent Sidekick Boff when the latter invariably solved each problem using his Barclaycard. About the only thing it has in common with the movies is that both characters worked for the fictional MI7 and are played by Rowan Atkinson. You can watch them here.


For similar spy parody movie, see The Pink Panther. For a few with slightly more risque flavor, see Spy Hard and Austin Powers. For a more World War II flavored alternative, see Top Secret!.

Johnny English contains examples of:

  • Accidental Truth: Sort of. Johnny pretends that a nonexistent assailant stole the crown jewels, and when asked what he looked like makes up a ridiculously improbable description. Later we find out that a man who matches that description actually exists, although he had nothing to do with the theft.
  • The Ace: Agent One. Unfortunately he is killed thanks to an oversight on Johnny's part.
  • Acting for Two: In a deleted scene, Rowan Atkinson also played a genealogy expert who helps Sauvage explore his lineage, before he is killed for being closer in line to the throne than Pascal himself.
  • Action Girl: Lorna Campbell.
  • Actually, I Am Him: At the party, when Lorna and Johnny are conversing:
    Lorna: You obviously haven't met our host, Monsieur Savage.
    Johnny: No, thank God! You know, I think I'd rather have my bottom impaled on a giant cactus than exchange pleasantries with that jumped-up Frenchman. As far as I'm concerned, the only thing the French should be allowed to host is an invasion.
    [Pascal, whom Johnny mistakes for one of the waiters, is standing behind Johnny] Sorry, can I help?
    Pascal: Pascal Sauvage. The "jumped-up Frenchman".
  • The Aloner: Johnny after he is kicked off the investigation for awhile and spends time at home, moping about his failures and sinking into a pit of depression.
  • Almost Kiss: A hilarious one when Johnny accidentally hits off his passenger seat ejector button just as he's about to kiss the girl sat in it.
  • And Your Little Dog, Too!: Literally-Sauvage forces Queen Elizabeth II to cede the crown to him by threatening her corgis.
  • The Apprentice: Johnny likes to try impressing Bough, his assistant, showing off tricks or techniques in an attempt to impress him and be a role model for him. Often ends with hilarity.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Johnny gets accidentally crowned King of England after pushing Sauvage out of the way. He then orders Sauvage (who had gone mad with anger at the persistence of "this stupid little country" and its bumbling secret agents) to be arrested.
  • Beard of Sorrow: The stubble kicks in fast when Johnny is suspended from duty.
  • Big "NO!": Sauvage when the Prime Minister tells him he's next in line for the throne after the Queen was forced to abdicate. Done in faked surprise as he was planning for this all along.
  • Big "WHAT?!": The Prime Minister upon being informed via phone call that the Queen is abdicating.
  • Big Word Shout: Johnny and Bough both do this when they parachute out of the plane to Sauvage's headquarters. Bough yells "GERONIMO!" when he jumps, and moments later, Johnny follows suit and yells "FANDANGO!"
  • Biker Babe: Lorna is one. We find out that she rides a bike at the start of the Unconventional Vehicle Chase, and Johnny notes her attractiveness when he first sees her in the Tower.
  • Bits of Me Keep Passing Out: The title character accidentally injects himself with muscle relaxant but quickly insists on carrying out his mission infiltrating a posh soiree despite not having fully regained muscle control.
  • Blue Is Heroic: Lorna is first seen wearing a dark blue dress in the Tower, and Johnny's Aston Martin is dark blue.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Johnny accidentally shoots a dart at Pegasus's secretary, knocking her out. In a later scene, she's seen in a wheelchair thanks to the incident. As the Instant Sedation example shows, as the dart is implied to have hit her in the spine, it makes more sense that she would be in a wheelchair.
    • When Johnny parks his Aston Martin outside the Tower after the jewels are stolen, Bough notices a sign that cars parked there will be towed away. Sure enough, when the two give chase to the hearse and rush back to the Aston, it's in the process of being lifted onto a recovery vehicle. Johnny and Bough commandeer it offscreen and use it to give chase.
    • Johnny injects the guard in Sauvage's building with truth serum instead of muscle relaxant, which is used to his and Bough's advantage when Bough asks him for a way out of the building without being seen.
    • After the credits, there's a scene of Lorna falling into a pool after being ejected from Johnny's car, with a man sitting by the poolside reading a newspaper. The man drops the newspaper to reveal that he is the man Johnny "created" earlier in the movie as an assailant.
  • Butt-Monkey: Johnny, due almost entirely to his incompetence, and Bough for the same reason.
  • Casting Gag:
  • Chase Scene: An Unconventional Vehicle Chase with the Mooks in a hearse and Johnny and Bough in a tow truck with Johnny's Cool Car on the back.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: "As far as I'm concerned, the only thing the French should be allowed to host is an invasion!"
  • Chekhov's Gun: The fact that Johnny parks in a tow-away zone after the jewels are stolen becomes important when the Aston Martin is almost towed away. It's being loaded onto a truck that Johnny and Bough then use to attempt to chase down the hearse driven by Klein and Vendetta.
    • Lorna's red bike. Johnny spots it during the car chase when he gets out of the truck, then he recognizes it outside the sushi bar, realises it belongs to Lorna and it's that evening that we learn she is also tracking Sauvage.
  • Commander Contrarian: Pegasus spends a good portion of the movie dismissing Johnny's insistent claims that Sauvage is behind the plot.
  • Co-Dragons: Dieter Klein and Klaus Vendetta are these for Sauvage.
  • Coffin Contraband: Henchmen smuggle away the Crown Jewels in a coffin, and drive off in a hearse to complete the illusion. Of course, Johnny gives chase but gets lost and ends up following a real hearse, leading to him tactlessly interrupting a funeral to investigate the coffin.
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: Two mooks hold Johnny and Bough at gunpoint only to be knocked on the head by Lorna with a fire extinguisher.
  • Cool Car: The tricked out spy car (an Aston Martin DB7 Vantage) that Johnny and Bough drive during the chase scene actually comes armed with a miniature Rocket Launcher... which would have gotten towed had Johnny and Bough not been able to commandeer the tow truck to chase down the mooks (see Chase Scene entry above). The rocket launcher comes in handy when a traffic camera takes a picture of the car (still suspended from the crane arm on the tow truck, incidentally) running a red light, and Johnny promptly blows up the camera.
  • Covered in Gunge: Johnny after climbing up a toilet pipe. After the toilets flush and he pops his head out of the toilet, his head is covered in faeces. Lorna makes him take a cold shower to get rid of the smell.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Johnny occasionally has flashes of skill and competence between his long stints with the Idiot Ball. Face it, he didn't get the job at MI7 for nothing.
  • Curse Cut Short: Johnny's "Oh, f—" after the Almost Kiss above, right before cutting to black.
  • Da Chief: Pegasus.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Johnny and Bough dress in dark outfits for a lot of the time, but it's most noticeable with the black neoprene bodysuits they wear when they break into Sauvage's building. Lorna too, who is always dressed in dark clothing until the final scene. More so in Lorna's case until we find out her true allegiance.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Johnny uses one with a picture of Pascal Sauvage after being demoted.
  • Death Glare: Sauvage gives one to Johnny at the end after Johnny knocks Sauvage off the throne and ends up being crowned himself..
  • Description Cut: "You are young, Miss Campbell, and inexperienced. What you have neglected to consider is that" [cut to Savage's hall, where it is revealed that the microphone is on] "nobody knows we are here."
  • Determinator: Conversed. Johnny may be an Idiot Hero, but he's determined to do his duty no matter who or what stands in his way, as Lorna puts it. This applies in spades to Bough as well, particularly since he's got to put up with Johnny's horrible incompetence.
  • The Door Slams You: Happens twice to Johnny. First in Sauvage's headquarters, and then in the holding cell.
  • Dumb Is Good: Johnny only ever falters in his noble pursuits to save Britain when he gets scolded by his bosses for his screwups. Sauvage never manages to fully intimidate or corrupt him.
  • Dystopia Justifies the Means: Sauvage plans to turn all of Great Britain into a prison camp once he becomes king.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Attempted by Johnny, but it fails due to Unfortunate Item Swap with the DVDs.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Sauvage to a T.
  • The Evil Prince: Sauvage's family used to have a legitimate, if distant, claim to the British throne, which he views as taken from him unfairly.
  • Expy:
    • Johnny is an Expy of a character Atkinson played in a series of Barclaycard adverts during the 1990s. The character of Bough was retained from the ads, but played by a different actor.
    • He's essentially a British Maxwell Smart.
  • Failed a Spot Check: A lot of Johnny's incompetency is linked with this trope. Like not noticing the gaping hole in the middle of the crown jewel room and concluding that if there was one way the thieves couldn't have come from, it was the floor, just before nearly falling in.
  • Fake Action Prologue: English is right at the bottom of the secret agent ladder at first, but dreams of being a veritable James Bond in the beginning.
  • Feigning Intelligence: Johnny does this the entire movie, especially to impress Bough and Lorna.
  • The Fool / Idiot Hero: Johnny himself.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The first time Sauvage's name is mentioned, Pegasus mentions that he (Sauvage) is related to the royal family. This turns out to be important later, as one of the catalysts of Sauvage's plot.
    • Lorna hastily leaves the Tower after Johnny accidentally knocks out Chevenix, and is also involved in the chase scene on her bike behind Johnny and Bough in the recovery truck. She is later revealed to be an Interpol agent also on the trail of Sauvage.
    • Johnny's line to Sauvage: "My bottom will be King of England before you are."
  • For Want of a Nail: Johnny giving Agent One incorrect information about his mission in Biarritz causes Agent One's death, which in turn leads to every agent except Johnny being blown up by a bomb planted at Agent One's funeral. If not for that first mistake, Johnny's role in the plot would never have been so prominent.
  • French Jerk: Sauvage is French and he's a ruthless Diabolical Mastermind.
  • Funny Background Event
    • Johnny accidentally paralyzes a secretary, and talks to her unaware boss while she's being taken out of his office, and Johnny, of course, can see everything and does everything possible to make the guy not turn around. When next we see her, she's in a wheelchair, and pauses to glare at him.
    • The sequel uses this as well, except replace "tranquilizing your boss's secretary" with nearly killing your boss's cat.
    Johnny: [through the microphone] - nobody knows we are here.
  • Gilligan Cut: Johnny's documents for the original Agent One include the codes for the submarine hatch he's checked himself. Cue mourning church bells and a report saying "AGENT ONE KILLED IN ACTION IN BIARRITZ, SUBMARINE HATCH FAILED TO OPEN".
  • Gray Rain of Depression: After Johnny's security clearance is revoked.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: When the lights go out at the Tower, Johnny uses a bottle of champagne to knock someone out. When the lights come back on, it's revealed he accidentally knocked out the head of royal security.
  • Groin Attack: How Lorna finally takes out Sauvage's sniper henchman at the climax of the first movie.
  • The Hermit: Johnny admits to being one when he first meets Lorna, saying, "Women want safety, security. I can offer them nothing but danger."
  • Heroes Gone Fishing: Johnny playing darts in his flat, using a Dartboard of Hate.
    • Lorna is in a sushi bar the second time Johnny bumps into her, which he only did because he noticed her red motorbike parked outside.
    • At the end, Bough is seen relaxing by a swimming pool in the south of France reading a newspaper when Lorna falls into the same pool after being accidentally ejected from Johnny's car. And so is the fictitious assailant Johnny invented.
  • Hollywood Law: With respect to the (albeit unwritten) Constitution and the power of the Crown. In Real Life, you could not get the Queen to abdicate with the stroke of a pen,note  and whilst the bit where all land in the country is technically the possession of the Crown and can be confiscated at will needs clarification,note  the monarch has very little actual power, which is de facto exercised by their government. It also ignores historical precedent concerning what happens to monarchs who try to exercise too much personal power. Of course all of this is (thankfully?) ignored in favor of Rule of Funny and a good story (see below).
    • There's also the notion that Mr. Sauvage only becomes King Pascal at the moment the crown touches his head, when actually (assuming that Elizabeth II's abdication and Pascal's claim to the throne are recognized), he would be monarch as soon as the abdication form was signed and Parliament has given consent. The coronation is just a ceremony.
    • Furthermore, in real life a coronation takes more than a year to organize, rather than just days as this film suggests. Also, it seems unlikely that a monarch would be allowed to quietly slip away to a castle in France so soon before getting crowned.note 
    • Oh, and throughout the film, various characters consistently refer to "England" rather than "Britain". In particular they talk of Sauvage being "King of England", even though that title was abolished in 1707, when England and Scotland were united.
    • In any case, even were Elizabeth to abdicate, Prince Charles would be next in line. If she were to renounce the throne for her descendants as well, the next in line would be David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley.note 
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Poor Bough embodies this trope, with a little smattering of Butt-Monkey.
  • Hypocritical Humor: After being rescued by Bough towards the end, Johnny says he doesn't know why Bough hauled himself up the pipe to get into the castle rather than the ladder used by Lorna. Johnny himself had used the same pipe earlier, and after that line, Lorna gives Johnny a look.
  • Idiot Ball: Johnny seems to be the exclusive carrier, though sometimes other characters take turns.
    • Johnny's boss is the absolute King of the Idiot Ball, simply disregarding every single legitimate suspicious indication that Sauvage is the bad guy, even when everything that has happened so far just happened to lead to his coronation as King of England.
  • I Meant to Do That: English covers up his bungles with one of these more than once.
  • Imminent Danger Clue: In the car park, Johnny stops dead and realises the voice of Felch, the man under the car he and Bough just passed, didn't sound like it should. Cue an Oh, Crap!, followed by gunfire.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Played straight, then subverted. Sauvage fires a pistol at Johnny in the climax and misses, then fires again and hits Johnny in the wrist.
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog: Johnny uses this as an excuse to get closer to Lorna in the Tower when he first sees her.
  • In Harm's Way / Fearless Fool: At several points in the movie Johnny brags about being fearless in the face of danger, and acts on these boasts a fair few times as well.
  • Instant Sedation: That is one fast-acting knockout dart pen. Then again, it is implied to have hit her in the spine. Small wonder, when we see her again, she's in a wheelchair.
  • Invisible President: The Queen's face is never shown.
  • It's All About Me: Johnny. He comes across as this thanks to overconfidence, smugness and in general thinking he's more skilled than everyone else.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Johnny. He appears quite arrogant and overconfident and often talks down to people, including Bough and Lorna a few times. However, he cares a lot about his job and the safety of the people he encounters, and not just Bough and Lorna. His first instinct upon coming across a shaking elderly man in the hospital is to get him to safety, despite being wrong about the situation.
  • Last-Name Basis: Bough is exclusively referred to by his surname, as is Sauvage. We only hear Sauvage be called Pascal a few times, such as by Pegasus, the archbishop, and Sauvage himself.
  • Latex Perfection: Sauvage's Plan A involved creating a fake Archbishop of Canterbury to crown him king using a very fancy looking mask. Ends up subverted because Sauvage realized someone would see through it and try to unmask the fake, so he just uses a lookalike instead.
  • Light Is Good: For the latter half of the film, Johnny has on a white suit jacket.
  • Light Is Not Good: Sauvage dresses in a lot of light or white outfits, including the white suit jacket he has on in his first scene, and his attire during the crowning scene towards the end.
  • Living Crashpad: The title character falls on his flunky while investigating the hole in the floor of the crown jewel room.
  • Mickey Mousing
  • The Millstone: Johnny is almost solely the causes of all the problems he, Bough and Lorna encounter when trying to uncover Sauvage's plot.
  • Mistaken for an Imposter: Johnny overhears the Big Bad's plan to set up a fake bishop perform the coronation ceremony. Unfortunately, the villain finds out that Johnny is aware of their plans and scrapes off the fake bishop idea, instead forcing a real bishop to do the job. This leads to an unaware Johnny humiliating the bishop on live TV.
    • Earlier, when Johnny crashed a funeral thinking that the priest and everyone there were very convincing actors.
  • Mistaken for Servant: Pascal Sauvage is mistaken for a waiter by Johnny when they first meet.
  • Mundane Utility: During the tow truck vs. hearse car chase, Johnny uses the car's onboard missiles to destroy a speed camera that photographs him.
  • Mundangerous: Forget being shot by the Big Bad or a Mook, Johnny hurts himself with sheer clumsiness more than his foes manage to hurt him.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: "May all your daughters be born with three bottoms." (Bilingual Bonus: the actual translation is "born with small breasts", though.)
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Johnny had made a fool of himself and didn't have the incriminating DVD. While Johnny's coronation is legitimately the result of his own fight to reveal the truth, the police would have been much less inclined to listen to his demand if Sauvage had just stayed calm instead of waving a gun around and screaming insults about the United Kingdom.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. Johnny ascends into Sauvage's chateau through a toilet pipe, and when he starts recoiling from the stench, we see a group of men sitting on toilets.
  • Non-Actor Vehicle: Lorna Campbell is played by Australian singer Natalie Imbruglia, who was mostly unknown as an actress aside from a stint in Neighbours.
  • Noodle Incident: What happened offscreen that led Johnny and Bough to end up in the cab of the recovery vehicle with Johnny's Aston Martin on the back? We'll never know, but we can presume it was an Offscreen Moment of Awesome.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Johnny briefly pretends (thanks to the quick thinking of Bough) to have escaped from a mental asylum after interrupting a funeral thinking that the crown jewels were in the coffin.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Bough gets one when he's stuck in the rock shaft and sees Johnny coming down towards him.
    • Johnny during the car chase when Bough accidentally lowers his Aston, with him in it, into the path of an oncoming car.
    • Johnny again in the car park scene when he stops dead and realizes... "Did that sound like Felch to you?"
    • The security guard in Sauvage's building when he realises he just gave Johnny and Bough their escape route out of the building.
    • Johnny while climbing up the pipe and seeing a wave of faeces coming down towards him.
  • Only One Name: Bough is only ever referred to by his surname. Additional materials (and the computer display showing how they plan to break into Sauvage's headhquarters) reveal his first name is Angus.
  • Parking Garage: Vendetta attempts to kill Johnny and Bough in a parking garage by posing as Felch, hiding underneath a car. Luckily, Johnny realises that the voice didn't sound right, seconds before Vendetta opens fire.
  • Pet the Dog: For all of his many faults, Johnny genuinely believes that his job is supposed to be about helping people, and this shows in several circumstances, particularly when he mistakenly encounters a confused-looking elderly patient in a hospital and immediately tries to come to the man's aid.
  • Poison Ring: Johnny confuses his "sleeping draught" ring with his "truth serum" ring. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Precision F-Strike: Pascal delivers one in French when Johnny takes the crown away from him:
    Pascal: Give it to me!
    Johnny: Get off!
    Pascal: Merde! note 
    • A moment later, when Pascal pulls out a gun:
    Pascal: Shut up! All this stupid little country had to do was stand in line and do what it's told for one miserable day! But can it do that? My fragrant French ass, it can!
  • Private Defective: Johnny embodies this.
  • Put on a Prison Bus: When English is accidentally crowned king of England, he himself places Sauvage under arrest for attempting to take over England. Afterwards, a Spinning Paper tells the audience of Sauvage's arrest, and adds that he may be executed for his crimes.
  • Red Is Heroic: Lorna's motorbike is red, and it turns out she's also on Sauvage's tail.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Bough is the blue to Johnny's red. Johnny is also the red to Lorna's blue.
  • Red Shirt: Agent One.
  • Redshirt Army: All the agents attending Agent One's funeral. Important because had they not been blown up, Johnny would never have got put on the case.
  • Right Behind Me: "Sorry, can I help?" "Pascal Sauvage, jumped-up Frenchman."
  • Rule of Funny: Both movies are essentially fueled by this. The plot of the first film, for instance, essentially relies on a pretty exaggerated version of the power of the monarchy.
  • Running Gag: Johnny's gun giving out on him in increasingly creative ways.
  • Say My Name: In Sauvage's chateau, Johnny yells, "LORNA!", expecting her to come in through the far door as part of his plan. She does, having been captured by Vendetta.
    • Pegasus too, exclaiming, "English!" during the crowning ceremony when Johnny unmasks himself.
    • Lorna screams "JOHNNY!" after Johnny accidentally ejects her from his car. Immediately followed by a Curse Cut Short from Johnny.
  • Stealth Pun: The string music (a cover of the main theme) in the scene at Pascal's building? Provided by the string quartet Bond.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Johnny has this reaction after accidentally injecting himself with muscle relaxant.
  • Truth Serums: Parodied. Johnny gets his two gadgets mixed up and accidentally injects a mook with sodium pendathol, making the mook not only truthful but extremely helpful.
  • Toilet Humor: Johnny infiltrating Sauvage's castle via a primitive sewer line... and the result.
  • Tempting Fate: "You are now entering the most secure place in the whole of England." *Cue explosion*
    • Really, Johnny just does this a lot.
  • Unconventional Vehicle Chase: Johnny and Bough attempt to catch Sauvage's Mooks after discovering them attempting to make off with the stolen Crown Jewels in a hearse. Johnny's car ends up being picked up by a tow truck, so he and Bough use the truck to give chase. Though eventually, Johnny feels the truck is too slow and gets back into the car on the back of the truck.
  • Unfortunate Item Swap: Playing the DVD on which Sauvage explains his Evil Plan at the coronation would have been a great way to expose him... unfortunately, the DVDs get mixed up, and the guests are instead treated to Johnny dancing half-naked to ABBA's "Does Your Mother Know".
  • The Unintelligible: Johnny after he accidentally injects himself with muscle relaxant and his facial muscles slowly stop responding. The henchman, similarly injected with the relaxant, manages to understand what he is saying. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Sauvage stays cool when Johnny interrupts his coronation, knowing that he has no evidence against him. When he swings down and gets the crown away from him, he pulls a gun.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Sauvage is seen and heard saying he will be downstairs at his own reception for the new French ambassador when Johnny and Bough infiltrate his headquarters, and he can be seen there in a later scene when Johnny, Bough and Lorna try to blend in there.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Sauvage manages to alter his Evil Plan halfway through in an attempt to accommodate Johnny's meddling. He fails.

"A good agent doesn't need gadgets. The only gadgets I've ever needed are a sharp eye, sensitive hearing and a whole bunch of bigger brains."

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