'Johnny English Reborn' (dir: Oliver Parker, 2011) Cert: PG
After the incredible financial success of Johnny English's first outing, 'St. Trinian's' (2007) reviver Oliver Parker has bagged the Rowan Atkinson spoof spy sequel. To say 'Johnny English Reborn' has been a critical success would be a fairly dramatic lie, but will Mr. Bean's 007 be able to bring in the masses again 8 years later?
Once he has finished hiding out and training hard in Tibet, Johnny English (Atkinson) is invited back to London to reinstate his position as a secret agent for MI7. English is haunted by demons of his past but is persistent and determined to impress the British Intelligence and his new boss Pamela/'Pegasus' (Gillian Anderson). English is sent out with new agent Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya) to stop an international terrorist organisation from killing the Chinese premier but this is no easy task and unfortunately for Johnny, wherever he goes, trouble follows him.
Perhaps the most striking thing about this picture is it's authenticity which comes at a pretty hefty price - considering the entire point of the 'Johnny English' franchise is to spoof and mock secret agent films, this film looks almost too much like one. The gadgets are brilliantly presented as well as rather silly and much like in James Bond's outings, English travels the globe to glitzy destinations, expensive casinos and drives flash cars. Parker's sequel has a staggering budget and the money has clearly been well spent. If Parker had kicked Atkinson out and cast Daniel Craig, we'd have 'Bond 23' finally.
But everyone will enter this movie after one thing - stupid humour, and they will get it. Despite having a perhaps more 'serious' narrative theme, 'Johnny English Reborn' sticks to it's predecessors' roots and plies on the stupidity and quite often hilarity. Granted the film is formulaic and some jokes you can see coming from a mile off, but Atkinson's beautifully brilliant facial expressions and body language enable all the obviousness to still be amusing. The film is well-scripted and certainly strong is direction as well as providing what audiences desired so why moan about it? No 'Johnny English Reborn' is not original and littered with clichés, but it's characters are fully-fleshed and developed, plus it's a hugely enjoyable and incredibly dumb 101 minutes that viewers will lap up and rush to the multiplex to endure.
|Still from 'Johnny English Reborn' (dir: Oliver Parker, 2011)|
The cast are all comfortable but work well - Atkinson as we know is perfect as English and he provides all the rubber-faced magic we adore so greatly. His comic timing and delivery is as fresh as ever and he clearly has a ball playing the comedy spy. Dominic West plays Simon Ambrose; English's old friend and partner who has some of his own demons too. West is a strong actor and he is clearly just having a laugh here but good for him. Rosamund Pike hovers about as Kate - a human psychologist who English becomes attached to, whilst Anderson is adequate as the MI7 leading lady.
But perhaps the brightest bulb in the tanning bed is Kaluuya - Tucker is a funny, vibrant and likeable character who has to deal with English's immense stupidity as well as survive amongst the terrorist threat. He is best known for his TV roles in 'Psychoville', 'Skins' and the new BBC Three show 'The Fades' but his big-screen performance is as impressive as his home-screen CV.
This sequel will certainly be a financial success and it would not surprise me if it overtook the original - partly because ticket prices have increased greatly since 2003 but more so because this is a good old slice of British humour that will crack a laugh-a-minute and put a silly childish smile across your face. It simply does what is says on the tin, and it does that with great confidence.
Frequently funny, visually ambitious and proof that you should not fix what isn't broken.
By Chris Haydon