Posted Oct 05 2018

Johnny English Strikes Again - This Remarkably Outdated,Desperately Unfunny Movie Just Does Not Rock

Dir: David Kerr

Starring Rowan Atkinson, Emma Thompson, Olga Kurylenko, Ben Miller, Jake Lacy, Charles Dance

For one of the UK’s most successful comedians over the last several decades, Rowan Atkinson has never really worked on the big screen. Yes, there have been annoying cameos in his mate Richard Curtis’ movies, and his own projects certainly make money. But they’re – simply – not any good. And Atkinson must take some (or most) of the blame.  Whilst his best work remains the cocksure arrogance and verbal humour of Blackadders 2-4 on the small screen (and you just know he probably thinks the largely lamentable Blackadder 1 was the best), the actor-comedian himself has always preferred playing the gurning buffoon, mutating his face visually rather than whip-lashing his viewers verbally. He would rather indulge his love of Jacques Tatti and be a Mr Bean than an Edmund Blackadder it appears, and the world is a poorer place for it. Johnny English is his attempt to combine the slapstick of Bean with something more plot driven, even if it relies on the dubious fall-back of parody. His first two outings as the British superspy who’s never heard of James Bond were incredibly weak affairs. Third time around really doesn’t improve things.

English 3 makes a point of its hero’s own out-datedness – but does it also have to feel like it was written 10 or even 20 years ago? A whole section dealing with virtual reality acts like it’s the first time that concept has ever been mentioned. It is in many ways more in tune with the telegraph – given that it telegraphs just about all its “gags” at least five or ten minutes in advance. Thus, we know that as soon as Ben Miller suggests putting some petrol in the Aston Martin and English says no need, they will run out of petrol at a crucial moment. As soon as they discuss energy pills being in the same tube as the sleeping pills – the wrong ones will be taken. As soon as they can’t get the suit or armour off – his metal pants will drop at the most inopportune moment. It’s always bathetic, and always pathetic.

OK, the first few minutes of English now resigned to being a teacher and training his young pupils in all things espionage is mildly amusing. And Emma Thompson giving us her best Theresa May (one of the very few contemporary references in the movie) is a minor delight. But mostly this is just really rather sad.

Like Morecombe & Wise (who took their own stab at parodying Bond in 1965’s The Intelligence Men), and many other Brit TV giants, it seems, for reasons somewhat indefinable or unsolvable, Atkinson is destined never to make it on the big screen. All we can hope and pray for is that if he tries again – don’t let it be a fourth Johnny English. Life is too short – for all of us.


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