Johnny English Reborn is the 101 minute sequel to 2003’s Johnny English, where Rowan Atkinson – of Mr. Bean fame – does his best Peter Seller’s impression (Inspector Clouseau from the hilarious Pink Panther films). Call it a James Bond spoof or a campy British spy-comedy; there is an audience for this type of product. And Rowan Atkinson does bring in some of his silent sitcom character traits (Mr. Bean) that help put him on the map.
The story for this sequel follows a pattern that Ace Ventura 2 instilled. Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson), the once heralded agent for British intelligence, has been kicking it at a monastery trying to find himself. After the first 10 minutes attempt to amuse people with Atkinson’s physical brand of comedy – specifically his quirky mannerisms, as he maneuvers around the secluded temple – he is summoned back to his agency that shunned him just five years ago after a botched mission. He is paired with a young prodigy, Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya); and under the supervision of Pegasus (Gillian Anderson sighting), they try to thwart an attempt on the Chinese prime minister’s life.
If one doesn’t like Atkinson’s brand of humor – or the British comedic style in general – but do enjoy these types of spoofs, go hunt down Steve Carell in Get Smart. Even better, dig up the classic Pink Panther flicks (not the Steve Martin remakes), for that is what this yearns to be. Granted, it’s tough to inject decent comedic moments in a spy-mystery satire. With the screenplay going through the motions of any 1990’s James Bond feature (facility containing gadgets, mission control meetings, and tongue-in-cheek combat scenes), the laughs are few and far between. That’s not to say they aren’t trying, it’s just that not even half of the obvious gags will register with an audience outside of the die-hard Atkinson loyal.
For whatever it’s worth though, this screenplay moves along smoothly and places the characters in an assortment of settings. And all the performers seem into this (save for Gillian Anderson who has nothing but question marks all over her face). Plus, Atkinson and director Oliver Parker do click just enough times in placing the titular character in sequences where even cynics will be unable to contain their audible arousal. Atkinson is just too talented not to eventually deliver, despite multiple duds in an ever-changing landscape of environments this tale unfolds in (shanty hotel, high-speed chase involving wheelchairs, patent ritzy casino, an undercover golfing mission, etc.). It’s the Scary Movie version of Bond flicks that garners some appeal thanks to Atkinson putting his own personal spin on the recycled shenanigans.
All that being said, it by no means re-events the wheel with regards to this type of farce.
Overall, Johnny English Reborn is consequently more of the same. There are a handful of laughs to be had in this spy-spoofer. And it’s at least better than Jackie Chan’s The Tuxedo. Furthermore, if one enjoys “getting kicked in the groin” jokes, this may be their paradise.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5