Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Oliver Parker
Stars: Rowan Atkinson, Gillian Anderson, Daniel Kaluuva, Pik-sen Lim, Rosamund Pike, Richard Schiff, Dominic West, Stephen Campbell Mooreh.
This tired, laboured, belated and unnecessary sequel to the subpar Bond spoof Johnny English should have been stillborn!
Rubbery faced comic Rowan Atkinson is great and very funny as the hapless, childlike and accident prone Mr Bean, and he is superb as the acerbic Blackadder. But somehow he grates as incompetent and bumbling British spy Johnny English.
Since we last saw him eight years ago, English has been disgraced and dismissed from the intelligence service following a failed mission in Mozambique. English is on a spiritual journey, meditating in a monastery high in the Tibetan mountains, when he is recalled to duty. He is charged with finding a shadowy organisation of top assassins known as Vortex, who are planning to kill the Chinese premier during high level top secret talks with the British Prime Minister.
Reluctantly recalled to duty English has to unravel a web of conspiracy that runs through the KGB, CIA and even MI-7. He has plenty of high tech weaponry, including a smart car, at his disposal. He is also assigned an eager young trainee agent, Tucker (Daniel Kaluuva) to help him. The search to uncover the identity of Vortex takes English to such exotic locations as Hong Kong and the Swiss Alps. But somehow there is very little humour to be found here, despite Atkinson’s familiar facial contortions and antics.
Director Oliver Parker has made some classic British dramas (The Importance Of Being Earnest, etc), but physical, slapstick comedy does not seem to be his forte, as his recent St Trinians film was something of a bland affair.
The script tackles many of the cliches familiar from the Bond canon, which is not surprising since writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have scripted many Bond films, including the recent Quantum Of Solace, etc. The largely predictable plot has been tempered with a real sense of drama and laced with the sort of action we expect from spy thrillers. The self referential humour and supposedly funny bits have obviously been added by William Davies (the original Johnny English) and comic actor turned writer Hamish McColl (Mr Bean’s Holiday), who have a fine understanding of Atkinson’s style of humour.
However, Johnny English Reborn fails to add anything fresh or particularly interesting to this overdone genre of the spy spoof, and the classic 60’s tv sitcom Get Smart did it much better anyway. There are some good comic moments including a roof top chase, and a running joke involving an elderly Chinese cleaning woman come assassin (Pik-sen Lim), who is reminiscent of the murderous Rosa Klebbe from the Bond classic From Russia With Love. But it’s too little!
And worst of all, Johnny English Reborn wastes a solid support cast who essentially play the material straight, while most of the physical comedy, punch lines and lame jokes are left to Atkinson. Gillian Anderson (from The X-Files, etc) has little to do as Pamela Thornton (aka Pegasus), the new head of a politically correct British Intelligence agency which has also apparently sold naming rights to Toshiba. She is mainly required to react to Atkinson’s comic mannerisms.
Rosamund Pike is good to look at but is given little to do as Kate Sumner, a behavioural psychologist and possible love interest for our hero. Dominic West plays Simon Ambrose, the uber suave and cool super spy, and English’s main rival within the organisation. Richard Schiff (from The West Wing, etc) is wasted as a traitorous former CIA agent. Stephen Campbell Moore (from Pretty Young Things, etc) is given little to do as a Tony Blair-like PM.
Johnny English Reborn plays to Atkinson’s strengths as a physical comedian, although his fans may find this laboured farce a bit disappointing. And during the end credits there is a short scene that is more reminiscent of his Mr Bean character, where he struts his stuff in the kitchen, synchronised to classical music.