Johnny English Reborn Review

Whilst I wouldn’t say no to an afternoon spent with Daniel Craig in those Speedos, given the option, the chance to follow Johnny English (by name and by nature) around for a day would see say toodle-pip to Bond quicker than you can say ‘tighty-whighties’. English certainly is as English does, and the second instalment from this bumbling buffoon of a secret agent sees him taking to new heights of embarrassment and social awkwardness, whether outrunning the best of Scotland Yard on an electric wheelchair or rugby tackling the Queen to the ground.

The story is a basic one, and lacks the bravado of the first film: Vortex, a top secret criminal organization, is knocking off foreign dignitaries left right and centre but one of its members has had enough and wants to go clean. The just one catch… he won’t speak to MI7 unless it’s through his old friend, Johnny English. But where is the disgraced agent?

On the other side of the world (I like to think alongside an ageing Rambo), English has enrolled in the Idiot’s School for Wannabe Monks, learning how to hide behind things and drag rocks along by his goolies. He duly receives word of his necessity at MI7 HQ and with his newfound mantra “with age comes wisdom” ringing in his ears, English sets off on the first plane bound for London. 

While it seems the years have been kind(ish) to Johnny, they’ve been disastrous for MI7, or Toshiba MI7 as it is now known. English is duly informed by a new, female MD that he’s exactly the sort of thing she’s trying to root out of the age old establishment, along with “fast cars and chauvinism”. But ever the self-congratulator, English is more than able to dodge the cold shoulder dealt to him by many of his ex-colleagues upon his return deep into his “fascinating” psyche (so says behavioural therapist and new love interest Kate Sumner, not a patch on the feisty Natalie Imbruglia, unfortunately).

After “oh, I don’t know… five years… six months…. and three days… or something”, English is quite clearly revelling in his re-found superspy status, thanks in no small part to an alarmingly plump, wheelchair-bound Tim McKinnery, who ticks all the boxes as MI7’s answer to ‘Q’, only sillier – see ‘voice altering lozenges’ for reference!

And, with gadgets in hand and long-suffering sidekick, agent Tucker, in tow, Johnny English embarks on his latest quest to save Western Civilization. The story is certainly as ridiculous as I had hoped it would be, with an assassinating cleaner who just won’t be beat and English’s absurd low-speed chase after an oriental free-runner standing out as clear highlights. There is satire galore; when English commandeers a speed boat full of WI pensioners and their husbands (much to their delight), Tucker’s over-rehearsed suggestion that “your safety is our main priority but you can help us by familiarizing yourselves with this leaflet” is a definite gem.

But ultimately, the shortfall of this film is its storyline, which is decidedly lacking when compared to Pascal Sauvage stealing the crown and turning Britain into the holding ground for the world’s convict population. It just doesn’t create the same sense of identifiable drama… As much as I feel for the Chinese dignitary who is at threat of being knocked off, this is Johnny English, and I feel the premise should be restricted to familiar surroundings for it to be effective.

Rowan Atkinson pretty much single-handedly carries the film with his divine physical humour and sublime comic timing. His fight against himself at the film’s climax perfectly showcases him at his finest. For those elite few who enjoyed the first film, Johnny English Reborn is certainly worth watching but I’d suggest you wait until it’s £3 in Morrison’s before running out and grabbing it for your collection.

Dani Singer

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