Johnny English Reborn

26 Nov

Title: Johnny English Reborn
Year: 2011
Director: Oliver Parker
Writers: William Davies and Hamish McColl, based on the characters by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Gillian Anderson, Rosamund Pike, Dominic West, Daniel Kaluuya, Richard Schiff
MPAA Rating: PG, mild action violence, rude humor, some language and brief sensuality
Runtime: 101 min
Major Awards: –
IMDb Rating: 6.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 38%


If you count yourself amongst the fans of 2003’s Johnny English, the first time we saw Rowan Atkinson spoof the spy genre, mainly the James Bond movies, then you will most likely find yourself liking this sequel to it, Johnny English Reborn. I personally didn’t particularly care for the original, it was a fun time at the movies but the spoofs weren’t particularly clever or original, and so I thought pretty much the same thing about this one, in which Rowan Atkinson’s comedic genius is wasted on gags that, mostly, are pretty uninspired. But, that being said, this is still Rowan Atkinson we’re talking about, the guy that made Blackadder and Mr. Bean and who created a very distinctive and effective style of comedy, so this movie does have some good moments just on the talents and charm of its star alone.

The thing with pretty much all movies that act as James Bond spoofs, and certainly this one, is that, quality of their jokes aside, they never really spoof today’s gritty Daniel Craig Bond films, nor do they make fun of the lighter fare of the Pierce Brosnan era but instead seem to target exclusively the Bond films of three decades ago or so in which it was all about the martinis and the gadgets. So it’s not as though young moviegoers who’s Bond experience may be limited to The World is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Casino Royale and/or Quantum of Solace will get how Mr. Atkinson is making fun of Roger Moore. But still, this one will still make money because even if Mr. Atkinson isn’t as well known Stateside he’s a huge global star, and this one’s already made nearly $160 million against a $45 million budget.

As for how this one compares to its predecessor, I think they’re just about the same quality-wise or, if anything, this one may actually be a tad better. It’s actually a bit more dark than the first one was, though of course it’s still rated PG, but in the eight years that have passed between films its as though this film series has established a very definite personality, which makes the jokes funnier and knows how to exploit Mr. Atkinson’s incredibly hilarious facial expressions, which is where his best comedy usually comes from. He’s back as the titular character, obviously, who’s had to go into seclusion someplace in the Far East after a mission goes wrong. But, as it usually happens in films that use that, he’s pulled back from that exile to help with one big job, this time that job is taking down an evil organization that’s been implanting moles into the world’s top spy agencies. As I write this right now I actually don’t know if I’ll give this one a B-, which would mean I barely recommend it, or a C+, which means I barely don’t. The thing is that while there’s stuff in this that’s actually sharp and I like the tongue-in-cheek vibe the whole film has, I just didn’t think it was that great, and I could’ve skipped the film and I would be more than fine with it.

But anyways, back to the plot, you have the always-awesome Gillian Anderson, rocking a British accent, in full deadpan mode as the agency’s new boss who sends Johnny to Hong Kong where he’s to prevent the assassination of the Chinese premier the new rival organization has plotted out. This new introduction of Johnny into the spy world provides one of the better moments in the film as he has to take this facial scan test from the agency’s psychologist. Not just because that means close-up time with the aforementioned hilarity that always ensues from watching Mr. Atkinson’s elastic face do its magic, but because that psychologist is played by the lovely Rosamund Pike (who was indeed a Bond girl in Die Another Day), and I think she’s brilliant. Another new character we’re introduced to here is Tucker, a guy who’s quite intelligent and who happens to be black, so you can imagine how pairing him with Johnny goes, considering he’s pretty racist and thinks he always has the right answer. Oh, and The Wire‘s Dominic West is also here, as Ambrose, the smoothest spy you’ll see in the whole movie.

Mr. Atkinson is indeed quite good at his particular brand of comedy, and the set-pieces Johnny English Reborn constructs in order for him to excel at that are sometimes really witty and well-done, but there’s no real laugh-out-loud moment, no hilarious climax that will leave you wiping tears away from your eyes. That’s not to say the film is not funny, but it’s the sort of funny that’s consistently funny and will get a smile on your face throughout, but not the sort of fine that will buildup to big laughs and then start back up again. I’m not favoring one over the other, but I’m just used to laughing like crazy with Rowan Atkinson films, and the fact that this one didn’t achieve that for me I guess means it’s just not good, not even if he’s trying his best to make it so.

Grade: C+


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