Johnny English Strikes Again movie review: Rowan Atkinson's 007 spin-off is dated and uninspired

Mihir Fadnavis

Sep,29 2018 11:46:36 IST

1/5

The Johnny English franchise is something of a mystery – not only are the films not good, but they also never fully utilise the talent levels of Rowan Atkinson. No one likes them either, and they have not exactly been box office bonanzas, and yet here we are on the third installment, which is also as insipid as you expect it to be.

Rowan Atkinson in a still from Johnny English Strikes Again. YouTube screengrab

Rowan Atkinson in a still from Johnny English Strikes Again. YouTube screengrab

Atkinson returns as the titular James Bond spoof, now working as a Geography teacher but yet again accidentally finding himself in another global conspiracy that needs to be taken down. A mysterious super hacker has broken into the British secret service’s computers and the agency can obviously only turn to one man – English, because he does not even like smartphones. English is sent to France to investigate, where he bumps into the deadly Ophelia (Olga Kurylenko) on a luxury yacht, who may or may not be a rival spy. Back in England, the Prime Minister (Emma Thompson) meets with a Silicon Valley honcho named Volta (Jake Lacey) to resolve the hacks. You do not need to be a genius to figure out the revelations that follow.

Johnny English part three, under the direction David Kerr, misfires constantly – the jokes do not land properly and the script by William Davies is rife with unsuccessful attempts at satire. The film feels very dated, particularly given that the original installment released back in 2003, but the old fashioned appeal of this film does not exude the charm of a throwback. We have already had a number of better Bond parodies, including Get Smart and the Austin Powers movies which famously made the Daniel Craig Casino Royale reboot change tone to become more serious. The concept of a bumbling spy already has a gold standard to look up to in the form of Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther series, so any other attempt feels like a cheap and weak imitation. Even the first Kingsman film works better as a satire while still being a legitimately good spy movie on its own.

There is a lethargic quality to the narrative here, the holes of which are filled with the typical slapstick you expect with Atkinson, but the actor is strangely devoid of energy. His body language radiates disinterest, as if he is aware that the film is not working as well as he thought it would, and there is a waft of a quick paycheck emanating at every lazily executed comedic moment. So uninspired is the satire that some of the jokes already exist as in-jokes in prior Bond films – like a mobile phone that just makes calls instead of secretly being a super weapon. The film also feels like a 20-minute TV skit stretched over an hour and a half, and as if desperate to find some laughs the film finally offers you a sight to behold – a bare male ass because that is what renders chuckles.

Johnny English Strikes Again does not work as a film worth visiting at the theater. The studios need to churn out better content particularly if they are relying on sequels to 15-year-old films. And if Atkinson really wants to revisit the past, he should try to bring Blackadder back instead of this muck.  

Updated Date: Sep 29, 2018 11:46 AM