Striking up laughter in cinema screens once again, Rowan Atkinson may have given up playing lovable Mr. Bean, but he hasn’t retired as Johnny English just yet. Now aged 63, he returns as the clumsy hero and does things ‘old-school.’ But is it time to put the franchise to bed?
Johnny English is now, seemingly, a geography teacher. But when backs are turned, he elects for a more hands-on style of teaching and spends his lessons showing the kids how to become expert spies with camouflage, zipwires and boobytraps, rather than sitting down with a text book to explain the meandering of rivers. If anything, the film will leave you wishing that Johnny English had been your geography teacher.
His top-secret teachings are soon disrupted when an anonymous hacker exposes the identities of all British undercover agents. With no one able to take on the mission of stopping the cyber-menace while they continue to wreak havoc on London, English stumbles out of his seven-year hibernation and eagerly accepts the call to duty – not a grey hair out of place.
If this were just another secret-spy action film, we would find ourselves in a high-tech lab where our protagonist is granted a handsome assortment of subtle-but-deadly gadgets, the latest sports car, and an over-compensational gun… but this is no Bond movie. Instead, English opts for a more analogue approach. Faced with a highly intelligent and tech-savvy mastermind, English does away with anything that can track his cyber-footprint. That means no mobile phone, and definitely no computerised hybrid car. Fortunately, there just so happens to be a classic Aston Martin Vantage available too. Move over, 007.
With everything he needs in the trunk and faithful sidekick Bough (Ben Miller) in the passenger seat, English speeds off to find the cybercriminal.
Like its predecessors in 2003 and 2011, the film at times tries too hard to be ‘down with the kids’ (like, c’mon no one plays ‘Temple Run’ anymore). But it is the purposely-predictable parody-plot of the action genre that gives the film most of its humour. Some of the comedy is lost because of a few gags’ poor timing, but Atkinson’s well-known slapstick style saves the day and strikes up the most laughs, particularly from the younger ones in the audience.
David Kerr’s directing appeases to all ages, with critical nods to contemporary politics. The film’s subtle satire is therefore something more mature audiences can appreciate, as well as Johnny’s relatable struggle with ever-increasingly complex technologies.
That being said, Johnny English Strikes Again doesn’t exactly bowl you over. The film will certainly give you a few laughs, but there’s not much to it underneath Atkinson’s slapstick silliness. A film worth watching with your younger siblings perhaps, but overall I think it’s fair to hope for an early retirement for Johnny English.
Image source: bluebudgie from Pixabay