Film Review: Johnny English Reborn

(Published in BritScene on The National Student and in In Retrospect – Issue 3)

Johnny English Reborn, directed by Oliver Parker, is a sequel to the first Johnny English film released in 2003. Set a few years later, English (Rowan Atkinson) is learning martial arts in Tibet after a disastrous mission which concluded in the assassination of a President. Head Agent at the MI7, Pegasus (Gillian Anderson), requests English back in the UK for a new mission. Along with ‘side-kick’ Agent Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya), and the backing of Agent Simon Ambrose (Dominic West) and colleague Kate (Rosamund Pike), English is given the mission of stopping a group of international assassins before they kill the Chinese premier. When the two missions begin to form a link, English is given information about Vortex, a group of assassinations that seem to be behind it all. With two out of three members of the group dead, English is told that the third member is a mole in the MI7, but how will he complete his mission when he is being framed as the mole himself?

Johnny English Reborn is a clever film with a decent story line and engaging characters. Its predecessor was a successful comedy and is a film that I could watch more than once but, unfortunately, this cannot be said with this sequel. It was funny on occasions and, by funny, I mean that it did make you genuinely laugh, but this was mainly in the few scenes that were shown in the trailer. Everything else was much the same as the first film; Rowan Atkinson plays an inadequate agent that gets himself in the most unrealistic of situations, but somehow ends up working it all out and getting with the pretty girl. Hilarious as it was the first time around, it was all a bit too obvious to be anything more than average.

Supposedly a parody of James Bond, this sequel was more like a snippet of scenes from Austin Powers. It even stole one of Austin Power’s key moments when mistaking somebody’s grandmother for an intruder, which the film then over-played, having at least three Grannies (including the Queen) being beaten up and hit over the head with a tray. Over-repetitiveness is never a good thing, and this definitely lost its comedic attribute by the end.

Although most of the characters worked really well in their roles, there were a few downfalls on their part. Pegasus, who at first seems to be a strong, independent woman – as you would expect from a secret agent – begins to lose her strength throughout the film. When her children run in at a meeting – a slightly unnecessary scene – she becomes detached from the confident agent that we met at the start which, by no fault of Gillian Anderson, begins to add to film’s lack of quality.

If you’ve seen the first two series of UK teen-drama Skins, you will understand why Daniel Kaluuya doesn’t really work well in his role. In Skins he plays the role a typical gangster who is outed as a well-spoken English man every time he is heard making one of his “Brap, Brap” references. In Johnny English, he uses this same overly posh accent but sadly it just doesn’t seem genuine. Rosamund Pike, as well, plays her role sweetly, but it seems a bit of a downgrade from her other roles as Bond girl Miranda Frost in Die Another Day (Is that supposed to be irony?) and as Jane Bennet in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice. Still, she adds an innocent charm to the film and was someone for Atkinson to cosey up to.

With all things considered, the film seemed more of a spoof than a sequel of a parody. Of course, you can’t beat a bit of Rowan Atkinson, so it wasn’t all bad.

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