Please don’t strike again Johnny English.
Synopsis: When a cyber-attack reveals the identity of all active undercover agents in Britain, the country’s only hope is called out of retirement. English’s new mission is his most critical to date: Dive head first into action to find the mastermind hacker. A man with few skills and analogue methods, English must overcome the challenges of modern technology—or his newest mission will become the Secret Service’s last. (Universal Pictures)
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Ben Miller, and Olga Kurylenko
Writer: William Davies
Director: David Kerr
Rating: PG (Canada/United States)
Running Time: 88mins
So it’s been 7 years since the last time Johnny English has “struck” but this time around, he was nowhere near as impactful. Somehow what makes this series what it is simply doesn’t work anymore. Its humor and storytelling comes off as very dated now in 2018 while also derivative and predictable thus taking away and enjoyment that could have been had. It’s only fitting that the film is this way considering that it was centered around an antiquated British spy of course named Johnny English (Atkinson) who was pulled out of retirement once the identity of every undercover British agent was put in jeopardy. From that point, the contrivances begin.
Your enjoyment of the film will depend on your ability to put with English’s schtick. It’s appeal is truly limited and will surely not be for everybody. The film’s humor was incredibly derivative and appeals to the lowest common denominator in that it relies for the most part on sheer stupidity and questionable logic to get by. What should get some laughs by some will make others roll their eyes back into their skull. English just gets away with anything and doesn’t do much to advance the plot. All he does it get set up for gag after gag by the other straight man characters such as his comically subservient partner/slave Bough (Miller). Sure, some may have been kind of funny but the gags become repetitive fast. Since there were so many of them, it felt like the film for the longest time was more interested in the gags than telling an actual story.
This was probably intentional since the story wasn’t overly strong either. Obviously the crux of the story was to bring English back to the forefront but it was also so predictable and dull that it didn’t matter. The series as a whole, as we all know, is clearly derivative of the James Bond series and the series doesn’t even try to hide it. Hearing the derivative score was cringeworthy while the story as a whole was cheesy and predictable while also tonally inconsistent. Albeit the trailers were filled with more gags than story to attract people to the theatre (the best one involving virtual reality goggles was already shown in the trailers), the story was easy to figure out rather early on thanks to a Silicon Valley internet billionaire named Jason Volta (Jake Lacy) and his evil plan that never mattered all that much in the end.
Despite everything else going on and the paper thin characters, the acting was the best part of the film with the best being Atkinson as English. The material may not be funny for the most part but he still delivered a very committed performance while pulling off all the physical bits effortlessly. Though none of it was new by any means, he still had his moments. The character of Bough was mostly a plot device to prop up English but his chemistry with Miller was still kind of fun to watch. Kurylenko was okay as a derivative, Bond-girl esque, Russian spy named Ophelia. Lacy as Volta was wooden and lifeless. The most baffling appearance came from Emma Thompson as the British Prime Minister who was just there.
Overall, this was an incredibly dated film about an incredibly dated character that is no longer impactful in any way, shape, or form now 7 years since Johnny English’s last outing. English’s schtick, as well as Rowan Atkinson’s, is no longer funny and this film as a whole was a dated, derivative, and eyerollingly unfunny experience over its sub 90 minute running time. That being said, it sense of humor will surely still appeal to children and diehard Atkinson fans but others should just stay away.