FILM REVIEW: Johnny English Strikes Again
DIRECTOR: David Kerr
SYNOPSIS: When a cyberattack reveals the identities of all active undercover agents in Britain, Johnny English is left as the secret service’s last hope. Called out of retirement, English dives headfirst into action with the mission to find the mastermind hacker.
Review by Melissa Lee.
The comedy spy genre has somewhat fallen off of late, most recently with the Mila Kunis-led The Spy Who Dumped Me doing dismally at the box office earlier this year. Despite that, it’s undeniable that the first Johnny English movie is one of the earliest blockbuster successes for the genre, with the first movie pulling in $160 million worldwide in its release in 2003. It was a reasonably harmless parody of the widely popular James Bond movies, nothing impressive or groundbreaking but serviceable enough to qualify as a family popcorn event. People were surprised when a second movie was released in 2011 — Johnny English Reborn —but certainly, no one was offended by it.
Unfortunately, Johnny English Strikes Again fails to offer anything more creative or amusing than its predecessors.
Rowan Atkinson is still a reliable comedic performer, but in Johnny English Strikes Again, he seems to have given up putting in effort to jazz up his onscreen time with the little facial ticks and vocal inflections that usually make him such a wholesome joy to watch. He still puts on a remarkably energetic showing, especially for a man of 63, but ultimately, he fails to exude the same bright stage presence that he once did in both former Johnny English installments as well as his other works.
Ben Miller shows up again in faithful but ultimately predictable form, with the loyal Bough glued to English’s side as he provides solution after solution and harps and hovers like a particularly clingy Alfred Pennyworth. There’s absolutely nothing special or unique about Bough or Miller’s performance, but as English says in the film, “I need a Bough.” As simple as the premise is, Johnny English just doesn’t work without him. It’s a shame Miller wasn’t given something more innovative to play with in the script.
Olga Kurylenko and Emma Thompson are the only cast members that stand out, both of them clearly and visibly having fun with their material as they play their roles—the cool-headed, fiery Russian spy and British Prime Minister respectively. Regrettably, despite both actors consistently giving their best, the script fails them too, and one finds oneself wanting either or both of them to simply take over control of the entire film altogether. In fact, I’m extremely confident that Thompson, an acclaimed screenwriter in her own right, could very easily have outdone William Davies’s one-note script if she’d been given the opportunity to improvise her own material.
Whether or not the world really needed or wanted a third Johnny English movie, we ended up getting one. Unfortunately, with its bland screenplay and overly simple gags, Johnny English Strikes Again makes a thoroughly convincing argument for the entire franchise to be laid to rest once and for all.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Melissa Lee is a communication graduate with an enduring interest in film and TV and a deeper, more concerning interest for the Wikipedia and IMDB Trivia pages that accompany them. Her spare time is usually spent in a movie theatre or in front of a TV/computer with Netflix going at full speed. She also likes to think she’s an avid reader, but, alas, moving pictures on a bright screen are far more engaging for those individuals blessed with the attention span of a five-year-old, such as herself.