Johnny English Reborn
I wasnít aware a sequel to 2003ís Bond farce Johnny English was something needed or requested yet here we are with Johnny English Reborn, not a reboot as the title may have you believe but more a few-years-too-late continuation with Rowan Atkinson doing his usual bumbling idiot schtick backed by a surprisingly solid budget. The result is a film that looks and feels much more high profile than it should.
When we are re-introduced to this 007 wannabe, heís being trained in the ancient ways of martial arts in a Tibetan monastery since his exile following a costly and embarrassing assassination attempt on a world leader he was supposed to be guarding. Somehow the secret service sector MI7 re-instate him and fly him back to London where he is informed of an attempt on the life of the Chinese premier.
Under the watchful eye of chief Pamela Thornton (Gillian Anderson) and with the usual round of hi-tech gadgets, heís back in the swing of things hoping to unravel this seedy web that the CIA, KGB and even his own MI7 are tangled up in. Joining him on his mission is wide-eyed Agent Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya) and behavioural expert Kate Sumner (Rosamund Pike), and as much as they try to help, and as much as we know poor Johnny will make a mess of things, we know he will succeed.
Itís hard to surprise an audience nowadays, and a film like this isnít made to shock us out of our expectations. Every gag can be seen a mile away and therein lies the problem with Reborn, an ironic title if ever there was one. Nothing is new, nothing is fresh, and after seeing Atkinson perfect the art of slapstick with Mr Bean, every attempt here feels recycled. Atkinson is a solid performer (just go back to the days of ĎBlackadderí to see that) but heís been forced to tailor his style towards a younger audience and dispense with the more adult-aimed humour he started out his career with, and given that when the film isnít playing for laughs itís setting up an admittedly rather interesting plot regarding double crossing agents, itís comes off as an uneven mix.
The opening scenes involving his training in Tibet and some of the cocky looks Atkinson gives off are very funny, but the humour dies off when it becomes more obvious. I personally didnít mind though as I was finding the story, predictable as it was, interesting enough to sustain interest, and thereís been a substantial amount of coin thrown at the feature so it looks impressive, particularly in the numerous action sequences that are served up.
The cast around Atkinson all do their best with what theyíre given. Anderson and Pike stay strong in their roles as the straight women to the madness, and newcomer Kaluuya is quite endearing as his sidekick, and it must be commended that although this is a vehicle for Atkinson, he doesnít overdo it and drown out those around him. I can imagine if this was an American production youíd have Jack Black or Ben Stiller trying to one-up the support cast, whereas here itís a collaborative effort, and Atkinson himself is a very likeable performer which helps.
I wasnít overly enthused with the first film, but a $160 million dollar gross stands for something so it isnít surprising we have a sequel, a sequel which is far more enjoyable and perfect fare for the school holidays, but they waited too long as Atkinson isnít riding on any sort of Mr Bean prominence. Those who want more adventures with that signature character will lap this up, but sadly it appears as if Atkinson has run dry and might have to return to catering to adults to get his comedic reputation back on track.
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