JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN Review: If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

Rowan Atkinson is back with his rubber-faced Peter Sellers inspired secret-agent in this unexpected sequel that is good fun with easy laughs and some pretty cool explosions.

rating: 2.5

Johnny English Reborn is a sequel that has taken its fair amount of time to appear since the original film was unleashed onto our screens in 2003 but it's lengthy stint away from us might be to it's advantage. The new movie is essentially the same as the last with the same gags revolving around the ineptness of this particularly useless British spy who fumbles to succeed but it doesn't insult as much as it might have done if it was made in 2005. If you cast your mind back eight years ago you will recall that Johnny English was everything it said it was going to be; a light farce of the 007 film genre that never took itself seriously with a bit of action and a lot of rubber face-ery from the unique, physical and understated comedy talent of Rowan Atkinson. It may not have been as smart a James Bond parody as the Austin Powers movies but it was no more ridiculous than the actual Bond films themselves at the time, coming just five months after Die Another Day. At the time it was difficult to see where the Bond parodies started and the serious films began. Eight years later and with the new Daniel Craig/Bond universal toning down the over-the-topness that was so evident in the latter Pierce Brosnan movies, Universal are banking on audiences still remembering and caring about Johnny English, and hoping he isn't as dated as the movies he is parodying. The film should do well, what with Rowan Atkinson a much loved figure over here, a National treasure, despite his rather lazy attempts to stay relevant on our screens with his reprising of old characters instead of creating new ones. As you've seen from the frequent ads shown before films at Odeon Cinema's, this time around Johnny English has been AWOL from the British Secret Service, training with monks in a remote region of Asia. But when intel of an assassination plot on the Chinese Premier comes to light, MI-7 must put English back into action and give him one last attempt at redemption. As the tag line says: 'One man. One mission. No chance.' Having seen and mildly enjoyed the first of the franchise (never thought I would actually use that term for Johnny English) I was not surprised by any moment of the sequel. Once again the plot exists only to put English in situations for comedy effect, and the film leans very heavily on the spectacular skills of Atkinson to hold it all together. It's very much the same as the Pink Panther spoofs... if you find Steve Martin or Rowan Atkinson funny doing banal physical comedy then you are in for a treat here. This time English is teamed up with Agent Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya) as his sidekick and pupil. Kaluuya plays the straight man to Atkinson's zany. And added is the beautiful Rosamund Pike as English's love interest Kate Sumner, whose romantic entanglement is just as annoyingly absurd as that of Natalie Imbruglia in the original. But to completely write Johnny English Reborn off would be a mistake. This is a decidely fun and light-hearted film that provides enough gadgets and effects for the kids, whilst having an undertone of adult humour for those of us who are a little more mature. There is a fair amount of topical British in-gags that an Aussie like myself fell astray of, but anyone from the UK will likely find the humour in them. What can I say about Rowan Atkinson? He is, and has always been, absolutely brilliant. There have been far better vehicles for his comedy but it is impossible to deny that he turns James Bond into a wonderful Clousseau-style character and makes the most of his innate ability to be funny with nothing more than a look or small raise of the eyebrow. Praise must also be given to Gillian Anderson who portrays Agent Thornton, an obvious nod to her Agent Scully days. But Anderson does a wonderful job, not only of playing the ever-suffering supervisor but of pulling off a pretty damn convincing English accent. Is the comedy a little silly and juvenile? Yes. Do I laugh at silly and juvenile? Yes. But Johnny English Reborn is a good fun movie that knows it's audience. If you enjoyed the first then be prepared for bigger effects, bigger explosions and bigger ridiculous stunts and mistakes. Johnny English Reborn is released in UK cinemas on October 7th 2011.
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A director & cinematographer by trade, but a Geek by choice. David grew up on the beaches of Sydney, Australia where he spent most sunny days indoors organsing his ever-expanding comic collection. Snubbed by the world at large, he wrapped himself in the sweet, sweet tales of the Marvel Universe and only resurfaces for Cheezels.