Fifteen years later and Johnny English is still a thing! I won’t lie, I did enjoy the first once upon its 2003 release and find it stupidly quotable to this day but when you have a character originating from a bank advert appearing in a weak third instalment, then you’ve got to question things. Imagine Flo and Joan from Nationwide riffing on a ‘Thelma and Louise’ like adventure or Greg from Halifax popping up in the full 100 minutes of ‘The Wizard of Oz’…it’s enough to make you shudder.
As the UK faces multiple technological shutdowns from a mysterious hacker, there’s only a few old school MI7 agents left unrevealed to the world, step forward Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) who teams up again with trusty Bough (Ben Miller) to track the source of the breach and get in all manner of mishaps.
The first film did possess a few chuckles and silly moments to tickle the funny bone but after ‘Johnny English Reborn’ from 2011 which I’ve all but forgotten about, there’s little in this newest spy outing to call for more English and in fact it dampens the nostalgic humour of the original. A large percentage of the stale feeling comes from the same writer being involved on the entire trio, this therefore means we face a tried and tested formula that is quickly unfunny.
On top of the deeply missed comedy aspect are brief touches of racism and other out dated thinking that makes it hard to stomach the film. A good 95% of the gags can be seen a mile off and that’s not just the ones that are sign-posted by obvious pre amble in the dialogue. There simply isn’t any need for this film, if it had been well put together then maybe it could be forgiven but it’s a dreary load that is massively tiring.
A story thread of old versus new runs throughout; with Johnny utilising a lack of mobile tech against a villain keen on gadgets. This leads to clear spoofing of James Bond which lie in English’s arsenal of sweet treats and dangerous candy but these nor anything else that tries to lampoon Britain’s most famous spy can save the movie from being less than amusing. Every now and then it feels like we may just witness a good scene or funny idea but aside from a well story-boarded VR sequence, English shouldn’t have struck again.
Rowan Atkinson harnesses the neat Mr. Bean routine of great physical comedy and he gurns like a king; there’s no doubt the man can commit to well performed choreography but it’s enough to lighten the film. Emma Thompson is on board and though she gives her role as PM a good deal of gusto even she can’t lift this film out of the gutter it speedily prat-falls into. Once again Olga Kurylenko is short changed, she’s a good glamorous actress who can’t quite get to appear in a film worthy of her talents. In this she is underused as a character impatient yet oddly drawn to Johnny’s antics, as was I.
Hopefully the hacker of the film will come to life and wipe all trace of 2 and 3 from memory, leaving us with the 2003 one, that though dumb is a huge sight funnier than this movie could ever hope to be.