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Johnny English Strikes Again - DVD Review

Johnny English Strikes Again

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

ROWAN Atkinson can be a really frustrating comedian. In peak form, he’s capable of delivering gems such as Blackadder or those Barclaycard TV ads that featured a bumbling spy who leaves a trail of destruction in his wake.

At other times, though, he’s either missing the mark completely, as with the first Bean film, or only sporadically hitting it. This latter criticism is particularly evident with his Bean and Johnny English characters.

It’s bumbling spy English who gets dusted down here, partly inspired by those Barclaycard ads and also by the idea of seeing what could happen to a 007-style character should he be played in the style of Peter Sellers’ inept Inspector Clouseau.

Sadly, though, the Johnny English films have thus far leaned far more towards the later Clouseau films, where the laughs were far more intermittent.

On this occasion, English is summoned from retirement when a cyber terrorist hacks the government and compromises the identity of every single British spy. Desperate to revive her dwindling popularity, the beleaguered British Prime Minister (Emma Thompson) agrees to put English – now working as a teacher – back into the field, without counting on his ability to muck things up.

Hence, English and his long-suffering sidekick Bough (Ben Miller) head to France to try and discover the identity of the hacker responsible (Jake Lacy’s sinister web master Jason Volta), while also encountering a deadly fellow spy (Olga Kurylenko) with whom English becomes smitten to the point of distraction.

Admittedly, there are some moments that generate genuine laughs. Seeing English and Bough posing as waiters in a top Riviera restaurant is highly amusing, especially once things start to go wrong, while a climactic sequence that finds English in a suit of armour has one or two inspired sight gags that highlight Atkinson’s penchant for farce.

But too often the jokes are either too obvious or too juvenile, lacking the sophistication required to really appeal to a broader audience. And then there are those that go on too long, such as one involving a car running out of petrol [too easily signposted and not delivered with any ingenuity], or the extended virtual reality sequence that is laboured to the point of tedium.

Atkinson, for his part, remains just about endearing enough to be worth rooting for in spite of his stupidity, while Miller also endears as Bough. Former Bond girl Kurylenko does her best with limited material, as does Thompson’s PM, but Lacy’s villain is tokenistic at best and wholly forgettable (something that early Pink Panther villains never were).

Hence, while Johnny English Strikes Again undoubtedly plays well to the kids and remains entertaining enough while it lasts, the overall sense is that it could – and indeed should – have been a whole lot more funnier. It’s another of Atkinson’s missed opportunities.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 88mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: February 18, 2019