There are two kinds of people in the world: those you like Rowan Atkinson and those you do not. If you are the later, there is no sense reading any further as it will nearly impossible to convince you to go see Johnny English Strikes Again. Though Atkinson has been featured in a number of films (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Rat Race, The Lion King) he still isn’t well-known to American audiences except for those who have seen the British star’s other character, Mr. Bean on PBS. The two characters are completely different, but the humor of the two franchises are similar in tone complete with pratfalls and embarrassing situations. Atkinson is the equivalent of The Three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy rolled into one. Despite how simple that seems, it takes a really good comic to be able to pull off that kind of humor. Regardless how silly or dumb a scene might be, this likable actor makes the experience enjoyable instead of painful. If that isn’t your thing, this isn’t for you.
The Johnny English franchise, a parody of James Bond films, first came to theaters in 2003. The sequel, Johnny English Reborn didn’t come out until 2011 and now seven years later, he’s back. Between 2011 and 2018, Mr. English has retired and serves as a spy school teacher for elementary kids. (The first few minutes featuring him in the school is almost the best scenes of the whole movie and could probably make for a good film of its own.) But after M17’s security is breached and every current agent in the field has been found out, the Prime Minister (Emma Thompson) is relegated to bring him out of retirement to save the world. It is revealed that someone is hacking into every government computer and causing havoc from street traffic to power outages and it is up to English to find out who that person is (someone the audience will figure out immediately). Meanwhile, America’s youngest billionaire and tech giant Jason Volta (Jake Lacy) is also trying to save the day by protecting the UK’s cyber-attack by offering his own hacker protection, and the Prime Minister is almost too eager to take Volta up on his offer.
English is an old school spy who is used to working with gadgets and shuns the system’s new world of digital phone apps, and we’re glad he did as it makes the movie a lot more fun to watch than without them. He also re-enlists the help of his partner Bough (Ben Miller) who like Maxwell Smart’s Agent 99, is actually smarter than him but allows English to take all of the credit when a plan actually works.
If you liked the first two Johnny English movies (and you don’t have to have seen them in order to enjoy this flick), then you will certainly like this latest chapter. Despite his age (Atkinson is 63), English proves that he still has the moves as witnessed during a nightclub dance scene. Despite how often things go wrong for the spy, he always reacts as if he is still in control with a “I meant to do that” attitude.
While I wouldn’t really consider this movie family fare, the film is surprisingly fairly family-friendly with only a few curse words here and there and one naked butt scene, because, you know…it’s a Johnny English film.
However, this isn’t the best in the series. The movie’s plot comes across as overly simple and there are few surprises of any kind. As each joke is set up, you already know what is going to happen and then it have had a few less predictable scenes and a surprise twist here and there. In addition, talented Thompson isn’t given much to do on screen besides rolling her eyes at English and swooning over Volta. On the plus side though, Miller is always a delight and a perfect companion for Atkinson. Olga Kurylenko is also a nice choice of casting for the elegant but mysterious bombshell, Ophelia.
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