Netflix UK film review: Johnny English Reborn
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Ivan Radford | On 24, Nov 2013Reading time: 2 mins
Director: Oliver Parker
Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Rosamund Pike, Gillian Anderson, Dominic West
Watch Johnny English Reborn online in the UK: Netflix UK / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Google Play
Have you seen those adverts starring Rowan Atkinson’s incompetent secret agent? You know, the original Barclaycard skits from the 90s? It’s rather impressive that 20 years on, the same James Bond spoof is still plodding along. What’s more impressive is that after the generally likeable and mostly harmless first film, this pointless sequel isn’t entirely bad. Well, it’s better than Quantum of Solace anyway.
The main reason it’s watchable? Rowan Atkinson. The man who made the name “Bob” funny, Atkinson has arguably the best comic delivery in the business. Which is why it’s sad to see him wasted on this. Johnny English returns from a lengthy absence to find himself in the middle of a plot – whatever it is, it’s highly forgettable – and the only way to solve it? Get kicked in the balls in the Tibetan mountains.
After 5 minutes of this monk-like retraining, Johnny becomes reborn – and Oliver Parker’s film shifts away from the fundamentals of Atkinson’s character: English is meant to be a bumbling idiot who flukes his way to success thanks a smart sidekick. Now, he’s good at karate and easily parachutes off a cliff in style. It seems daft to criticise a sequel for not offering more of the same, but Johnny English 2 is a different film to the first – and not as funny because of it.
Of course, there’s also something about a mole in MI7. Who could it be? Suave, sexy, way-above-suspicion super-spy Simon Ambrose (Dominic West) doesn’t know. Neither does English’s Dench-like boss (Gillian Anderson), although she does have a mother who looks a bit like an elderly Chinese assassin – a mistaken identity that writers William Davies and Hamish McColl mine shamelessly for gags throughout.
That and the laboured crotch-kicking aside, there are some mildly amusing moments. MI7 is now sponsored by Toshiba (“Spying for you”) and has a shiny colourful HQ open to the public, while one excellent free-running sequence sees Johnny embrace his physical incompetence; as the henchman clambers down wobbly bamboo scaffolds, he simply takes the lift.
It all explodes in a snowbound finale that does nothing big or particularly clever. For all its stunts and solid supporting cast, the film essentially boils down to a scene in which Atkinson pretends to fight himself. Fortunately, Rowan punching himself in the face is fairly entertaining to watch – but it’s mostly because he deserves it for starring in this unnecessary film.
Johnny English Reborn is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.