Johnny English Reborn

Art & Culture

It’s probably unreasonable to have expected anything exceptional from a new Johnny English movie, but I did feel that if Rowan Atkinson could be bothered to resurrect this sub-Bond comedy character, maybe there’d be something to look forward to. But as so often, the best bits are all in the trailer.

At the beginning of the film, we find our hero deep in the heart of Tibet, engaged with a spiritual battle to deepen his understanding, by towing boulders attached to his genitalia. Well, it takes all sorts. Needless to say, he is summoned back to Blighty where he is required to take up service again for MI7, now under the leadership of Gillian Anderson. Other colleagues include Dominic West as a fellow agent, Tim McInnerny as a wheelchair-bound Q clone, and Rosamund Pike, who has been in a proper Bond film, as a kind of intellectual Miss Moneypenny. The reason for English’s return to civilisation is hardly worth discussing, since it is merely an excuse for him to make a fool of himself on all occasions; a kind of Anglicised Clouseau, without the silly accent. But this device has limited appeal for me. If you know that in any given situation he will seem to have the upper hand, only to make a balls of things by being too stupid/cocky/naive, then there is a complete absence of tension. If you get your laughs from people kicking each other in the goolies, playing with their chair, or riding a souped-up wheelchair,  you are going to be dashing to see this. Otherwise, not.

I’m not pretending that I am the target audience, which I presume is several decades younger, but even so, I think a little more wit and originality could have been put into this. A helicopter that chops the tops off trees with its blades; a golf shot that hits the wrong person; and worst of all, a running gag about a hit person who is a little old cleaning lady, so that Johnny keeps attacking little old ladies in the mistaken belief that they are secret assassins. I have to admire a man of his age for tackling such a robust role (though I hope stunt double were used), as well accepting that fact the Atkinson has made an astonishingly successful career out of playing idiots when he is clearly nothing of the kind. But it doesn’t mean that I can recommend you go and see this film. Watch Blackadder 4 again. You’ll enjoy it much more.


Philip Raby

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