© 2011 Ray Wong
It's been eight years since the last Johnny English movie, and Rowen Atkinson tries his best to revive the character and his antics, but the result may not be something he expects.
After Johnny English (Rowen Atkinson) was dismissed by the MI7 because of a botched operation, he's been in hiding, taking lessons from the Tibetan monks. But soon he finds himself reinstated, being personally requested for a mission. There is a plan by a secret group to assassinate the Chinese Prime Minister, and English is to find out the identity of the group and to stop the assassination.
English goes to Hong Kong with rookie Agent Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya). Their contact Fisher (Richard Schiff) reveals that he's part of a trio of professional assassins called the Vortex, and they each carries a special key. When Fisher is killed, English attempts to retrieve the key but loses it at the end. While investigating further on the Vortex, English realizes that one of them is a mole within MI7. As time is running out, English must find the mole and stop the assassination attempt. Most important, he must clear his name.
Rowen Atkinson (Mr. Bean's Vacation) is best known for being Mr. Bean, with Johnny English his second most recognizable role. Even though the two characters are different, there's significant similarities and Atkinson tends to play them the same way. Obviously, English speaks and seems smarter than Mr. Bean (but not much), and he's an MI7 agent! Atkinson is treading old water here, so there isn't much to be excited about.
The cast consists of some recognizable names, however. Gillian Anderson (X Files: I Want to Believe) is droll and serious playing MI7 director Pamela. Rosamund Pike (Surrogates) is lovely and interesting as Kate, English's love interest. Dominic West (Centurion) is dashing and mysterious as Agent Ambrose. Richard Schiff (Solitary Man) has a very small part that doesn't really take advantage of his talent. The standout is Daniel Kaluuya (Chatroom), who channels Chris Tucker in Rush Hours but makes the role his own. Honorable mention goes to Pik Sen Lim (Plenty) whose recurring role as a cleaning-lady assassin is hilarious.
The screenplay by William Davies (How to Train Your Dragon) and Hamish McColl (Mr. Bean's Vacation) is surprisingly sophomoric considering Davies's resume. True, this is Johnny English, and we come to expect certain crude, infantile humor. Still, much of the humor doesn't work, and is too infantile to even mention. I also know what they're going with English's character, but sometimes he is simply too clueless and stupid that he makes me cringe. How the heck did he get to be a secret agent? Certain situations are so ridiculous that it fails to be funny because you just can't believe someone can be so stupid. A few running gags overstay their welcome by the time the movie ends.
The story and the plot are not that bad. There actually is a coherent plot, albeit flimsy -- much of it is to get English from one place to another and see how he screws up. However, the sendup to the Bond films is spot on and I appreciate the parody.
Director Oliver Parker (An Ideal Husband) gives us a nicely paced production, but the production quality seems subpar. There's a cheap look to the movie. Then suddenly there's an over-produced sequence that looks expensive to make. The quality is uneven to say the least.
I like Atkinson and I like Johnny English, but I can't help but feel disappointed by this. There are a few genuine laughs, but most of it has been done before or simply isn't funny. I have a feeling Johnny English won't be reborn again for a very long time.
Stars: Rowen Atkinson, Gillian Anderson, Rosamund Pike, Dominic West, Daniel Kaluuya, Richard Schiff
Director: Oliver Parker
Writers: William Davies, Hamish McColl
MPAA Rating: PG for mild action violence, rude humor, language and brief sensuality
Running Time: 101 minutes
Script - 5
Performance - 6
Direction - 6
Cinematography - 7
Music/Sound - 7
Editing - 6
Production - 7
Total - 6.2 out of 10.0