Johnny English Strikes Again
2018, PG, 88 min. Directed by David Kerr. Starring Rowan Atkinson, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Gambon, Emma Thompson, Ben Miller, Adam James, Jake Lacy, Charles Dance, Edward Fox.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 26, 2018
Rubber-faced Rowan Atkinson returns to the role he made not very famous at all, that of gormless MI7 spy in 2003’s Johnny English and it’s equally unexpected sequel Johnny English Reborn. The result is a cheerfully unfunny low-brow affair which simply can’t compare with the many genuinely entertaining James Bond spoofs that seem to crop up every decade or so, such as Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery or the more sublime pleasures of Jean Dujardin in the French OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies. (And, lest we forget, the comically libidinous machismo of James Coburn as Our Man Flint.)
Yet this threequel is for die-hard Atkinson fans only. English is recalled to active service by the head of MI7 (Thompson) after a hacker breaches the agency’s networks and reveals the identities of every single Smiley out there. It’s all part of a plan to destroy the internet, to which I heartily say, “Godspeed to you, my good man.”
Reunited with his old assistant Bough (Miller), the dapper dullard pops off to the south of France in a luscious, crimson ’78 Aston Martin V8 Vantage to uncover the identity of the Silicon Valley villain via thoroughly analog methodology. Wackiness ensues. There’s a memorable gag revolving around a trio of aging, former “double-Os” also called in from the cold, but don’t blink or you’ll miss British stage and screen legends Gambon, Dance, and Fox.
Atkinson has always struck me as an acquired taste stateside: You either love or loathe his fidgety, muttering Mr. Bean character, which is aimed primarily at the kiddie set. Nevertheless, this actor who, at first glance, appears to have been born of the result of some Cold War eugenics experiment possibly involving a creature from the mole family and a gurning everytwit bordering on the Pythonian has had some memorably batty turns over the decades, not least of all in 1989’s brilliant but woefully underseen The Tall Guy (with Jeff Goldblum and Emma Thompson no less) and Richard Curtis’ Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually. Proof enough that there is more to the Bean than some might think.
Alack and alas, Johnny English Strikes Again is an inoffensive collection of zanily mediocre pratfalls and shenanigans, with Atkinson continuing his presumably by now patented schtick and very little else.