Johnny English Reborn

Movie Information

The Story: Secret agent Johnny English bumbles his way through a new case as he attempts to stop an evil cabal from killing the Chinese head of state. The Lowdown: A movie no American was asking for lives and dies on how much you can stomach Rowan Atkinson’s usual shtick.
Genre: Comedy
Director: Oliver Parker (The Importance of Being Earnest)
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Rosamund Pike, Dominic West, Gillian Anderson, Richard Schiff
Rated: PG

Quickly jumping to the top of my list for most-depressing movie experience of 2011 is Johnny English Reborn. Mind you, this has nothing to do with the content of the film, which is your basic nuts-and-bolts spy parody. No, it’s more the superfluous nature of this goofy movie, which has already made a boat load of cash overseas, and seems to have been pawned off Stateside for no other reason than “Why the hell not?” Or maybe it’s watching Gillian Anderson and Dominic West—both actors with once-promising film careers—floating aimlessly through the film like specters. Or perhaps it’s just my mood at having to suffer through yet another Rowan Atkinson movie, where the only point seems to be the moral that if you’re a big enough moron, you’ll eventually rise to the top. Smart money says it’s all of this combined, making this seething, exhausting stew of mediocrity that is Johnny English Reborn so unfortunate.

I don’t mean to pile on to what should be a harmlessly dumb little movie. But I really don’t find Rowan Atkinson’s mugging, bumbling shtick funny in the least, and it’s only compounded by his insistence on playing the most unlikable characters imaginable (the beloved Mr. Bean included). His Johnny English is no different. He’s a pompous muck-up. The point of the film, of course, is to watch secret agent English screw up at every conceivable juncture. In theory, this kind of comedy is supposed to work in small doses—Mr. Bean began as a TV show, and this English character started off in 30-second adverts. But at a bloated 101 minutes, Johnny English Reborn is an endurance test.

For those of you wondering, we get Atkinson as British spy Johnny English, who, after the events of the first Johnny English film is hiding out with monks in Tibet. (If this sounds familiar, that’s because Johnny English Reborn lifted this plot point from Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995), giving us some idea of the lack of imagination at work in the screenplay.) Called back into action, English is asked to meet up with a CIA agent (Richard Schiff) who has information on an unknown secret organization’s plans to assassinate a Chinese statesman. So it’s up to English to basically pratfall his way to glory, as he traipses his way through a lazy, transparent web of deceit and eventually saves the day through the usual array of Mr. Bean-isms.

Your enjoyment of the film will hinge entirely on how much Atkinson you can stomach. There’s really nothing else to the film. While I don’t personally care for the 1967 spy-spoof Casino Royale (don’t worry, I’ve been personally berated by Ken Hanke on numerous occasions for my transgression), even in that uneven and unwieldy film there was some sense of originality, creative energy and comedic purpose—and that was 45 years ago. If you insist on a James Bond parody, just stick with that film, and stay far, far away from the hackneyed laziness that is Johnny English Reborn. Rated PG for mild action violence, rude humor, some language and brief sensuality.


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13 thoughts on “Johnny English Reborn

  1. Jeremy Dylan

    Your enjoyment of the film will hinge entirely on how much Atkinson you can stomach.

    I find that a suspect notion.

    I know plenty of Atkinson fans who didn’t care much for this or its predecessor.

    • Justin Souther

      My fear is that these years of Mr. Bean have completely ruined any chance I might have of enjoying Black Adder, for instance. I’ll give it a try sometime, however.

    • Jeremy Dylan

      Have you ever seen BLACKADDER? or NOT THE NINE O’CLOCK NEWS?

    • Barry Summers

      Blackadder is brilliant. The same characters down through different ages of English history. My favorite is the WWI season. How many comedians can make trench warfare fun?

  2. Ken Hanke

    I tried to watch the former once and gave up pretty fast. I have never encountered the latter. Frankly, I’m kind of creeped-out by him. And I don’t tend to respond positively to schtick that’s built on making “funny” faces.

  3. Ken Hanke

    This is a valid principle in the area of government bureaucracy.

    In my experience, that’s equally true of corporations.

    • DrSerizawa

      In my experience, that’s equally true of corporations.

      No doubt. I was fortunate in that I mostly worked for smaller companies before I retired. Smaller companies usually can’t carry the load of large numbers of destructive incompetents that a big Corp can.

      Though we did get our occasional Mr.Bean.

      Can anyone explain why Mr Bean was so damm popular?

  4. Justin Germino

    Ironically my kids 8 and 5 loved Johnny English and also enjoy the Mr. Bean cartoons more than the Mr. Bean movies.

  5. Jeremy Dylan

    My fear is that these years of Mr. Bean have completely ruined any chance I might have of enjoying Black Adder, for instance.

    I urge you to give it a shot. It’s an entirely different beast to MR. BEAN. Skip the first season though, that might put you off it entirely. The other three 6-episode seasons are great though.

  6. Orbit DVD

    I don’t think Americans realize how popular Atkinson is with audiences overseas. That last Mr. Bean film made hundreds of millions.

    For years the first Johnny English was the preferred rental for boys aged 8 – 12 at my store.

  7. Ken Hanke

    Call me silly, but I don’t much rely on the taste of 8 to 12 year olds.

    I know Atkinson is huge in Europe. That just proves that Europeans have just as lousy taste as Americans.

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