Johnny English Strikes Again
Full disclosure: I have not seen the previous two Johnny English films. Something tells me that I haven’t missed much in terms of plot or character depth, but I wanted to be honest with you, dear reader. The first in the series was released in 2003, the second in 2011, which means that even the most devoted English fans would need a refresher on where they last left our bumbling spy.
Rowan Atkinson stars as the titular Johnny English. He’s a dimwitted but lucky spy for the fictional MI7 branch of British Intelligence. Though English had retired and was teaching the next generation of intelligence officers, he’s called back into duty when all other active agents are compromised in a cyber attack. Being a proud Luddite, English is mostly off the grid and was unscathed in the attacks. Now he’s England’s last chance to find out who launched these attacks and bring them to justice. It’s an easy, linear plot which has no real stakes and you likely already know how it’s going to end. Really, this story is just a framework to watch some patented British silliness.
In true Atkison tradition, all of the best bits of the film are the non-verbal comedy he’s known for. Whether he’s setting a restaurant on fire, or walking around in a full suit of armor, Atkinson still has his comedic chops. The gags are not nearly up to par with some of the more inspired parts of Mr. Bean, but they still work nicely to get some good chuckles out of the audience.
The supporting cast is functionally adequate as well. Emma Thompson as the harried and self-serving Prime Minister, and Jake Lacy as the Elon Musk stand-in both deliver cartoonish performances, which perfectly match the rambunctious tone of Johnny English Strikes Again. Ben Miller, however, is the one to watch as Bough. He’s the reason English always comes out on top and seems happy to continue living in that shadow, as long as it means the mission is a success.
While it’s nice to see that there are still easy to watch, mildly entertaining comedies aimed at families with young-ish kids, there must be a way to make films for that demographic that are more dynamic. Johnny English Strikes Again is perfectly fine in its own right, but its naiveté feels dated and unnecessary. For a spy film with car chases and explosions, it falls flat and fails to fully engage.