He knows no fear, he knows no danger, he knows… absolutely nothing. It’s the perfect description for a character like Johnny English, the bumbling British secret agent, who now returns to the big screen for the third time in 15 years. But though his first misadventures brought original laughs and amusement, it seems that the gas is beginning to leave the comedic tank of this film series.
Johnny English Strikes Againis an unremarkable entry in the trilogy (though other critics may argue the other installments were of the same caliber), that while does succeed in creating moments of laughter and fun, is largely a collage of skits that don’t quite gel as a feature film. There is plenty of talent on screen (especially the always delightful Rowan Atkinson), good set pieces, vehicle chases, and intriguing views, that proves there is a greater movie to be found within, but that unfortunately never excels beyond a story filled with slapstick.
Rowan Atkinson’s supreme comedic genius has never been in question, and by once again filling the shoes of Johnny English he reminds us anew of just how special a performer he is; his performance here is really the only consistently great thing about the movie. Simultaneously suave, cocky and totally incompetent Johnny English is indeed an inherently very funny character, that unfortunately finds himself with screenplays that don’t do him or Atkinson for that matter justice.
Though this film follows a similar narrative arc as the previous films, Johnny English Strikes Again seems to be the most like patchwork; there are many visual gags (some of which are clever), and slapstick scenarios that elicit chuckling in the moment, but their contributions don’t add much to the film as whole. They exist loosely within the framework of the plot but could just as easily be taken in without such context. It would seem like the entire film is a series of episodes from a sketch show, and though it would be unfair to say the movie is incohesive, it is still, by and large, a collection of vignettes.
The jokes themselves are generally tame and occasionally predictable, but Atkinson’s delivery more than makes up for their lackluster quality. With his trademark facial expressions, physical comedy, and of course delivering his lines in a sarcastic and arrogant way, Rowan Atkinson brings together elements of both Blackadder and Mr. Bean as Johnny.
In a surprisingly pleasant supporting role is Emma Thompson as the British Prime Minister, who showcases a potential for comedy but is again held back by the screenplay. Ben Miller (who returns from the 2003 film) as Johnny’s right-hand man Bough is not as funny as he was in the original, while Olga Kurylenko is merely another cliche femme fatale type.
In the end, Johnny English Strikes Again is acceptable comedic light entertainment, but nothing that is particularly original or downright hilarious. The filmmakers and its stars are clearly having fun and have crafted a movie that hopes to bring amusement to its viewers; but for many seeking more sophisticated material (of which Atkinson’s earlier work would certainly fit that description), this movie will be rightfully seen as a collection of tepid gags.
This is a two-star movie, that is elevated slightly higher solely because of Rowan Atkinson whose talent remains underappreciated within the scope of popular culture. For those seeking something undemanding and mostly amusing, this movie fits in well for a matinee screening, while for many others the desire to see a crisper and smarter comedy will likely not be fulfilled. Yet in spite of its faults and banalities, the ability to see a comic legend in action may be more than enough to warrant joining Johnny English on one last mission.
Review: Johnny English Strikes Again
Rowan Atkinson returns to the role of Johnny English. For fans, this will be a sequel with diminishing returns; for critics much more of the same