Johnny English, much like Mr Bean, is a character only Rowan Atkinson could play. No other actor can inhibit a character so foolishly unaware of his own stupidity and with such comical precision and brilliance. As the winter awards season slowly comes upon us, Johnny English Strikes Again is a welcome change as, amidst the foray of serious movies coming out at the moment, sometimes you just want to laugh.
If you go to see the third instalment in the Johnny English cinematic franchise, one thing is certain, you will laugh. The film does take a bit of time to get going, with only a few chuckles reverberating around the theatre in the opening minutes. However, this is expected as the plot is established, revealing a tale we have seen before in English’s previous outings. MI7 has been hacked and all the covers of its agents are compromised, forcing the Prime Minister to place her entire faith in a rogue agent outside the field, Johnny English. He represents a man no one backs, few admire and yet still manages to get the job done in the most unorthodox fashion possible.
From the beginning, English has always been the comedic answer to James Bond; a hero who saves the nation not through wit or physical brawl but comical luck. He is a loveable buffoon but for some his comedic capabilities may be running slightly dry. However, others will no doubt still be delighted by what English has to offer as he tries to smooth talk women and escape villains while spurting cocky one-liners.
As English begins his mission, he is reunited with Bough (played well by Ben Miller), his sidekick from the first film. Bough is sadly not used as much as perhaps he should have been, but Miller does well to again show him to be a loveable everyday man. The rehashes from past films continue as we watch the familiar gadget breakdown in MI7 with there being a pen which creates a stun explosion, much like the pen tranquiliser from the first English film. Furthermore, we once again experience the fall of English as he is banished from the case, forced to walk away, once again in the rain.
Unfortunately, the villain is fairly predictable but in many ways the story is not about intrigue, it’s about comedic action. The film is at its best when English is placed in an absurd situation, like a boat heist where he can’t stop shouting after an explosion or a car chase where he shoots a missile at cyclists. Atkinson delivers physical comedy only he could achieve, providing endlessly funny facial expressions, accents and bumbling idiocy. Simply put, if you liked the other Johnny English films, this one won’t disappoint.
Illustration by Nicola Finch
For the eager eyed, there is a great scene where English is amidst older agents who could also be assigned the mission at hand. These men include Michael Gambon, who recently played a jewellery thief in King of Thieves, and Edward Fox, who is famous for his role in The Day of the Jacal where he plays an assassin trying to kill the French President. The film is unashamedly mocking the villainous side of both these prospective agents which is a nice touch.
There are amusing moments where fun is poked at phones, electric cars, safety forms, and recorded phone messages (press one for…). English is a swansong for the old-school and everything Sean Connery’s James Bond stood for, minus the seriousness.
Emma Thompson is brilliant as an over the top Prime Minister, channelling her inner Theresa May with her awkward and embarrassing mannerisms. By the end, Thompson becomes a little too over the top, but she isn’t the focus, Atkinson is. It is his show and he delivers the performance you’d expect from him. Johnny English Strikes Again is nothing new and is an example of the filmmakers playing it safe, but when you’re watching English slide down some stairs wearing armour, that doesn’t seem to matter at all.
Johnny English Strikes Again is in cinemas now.