By Maryann O’Connor
Ah Mr English, we’ve been expecting you. Actually, no we haven’t. It’s been eight years since Johnny English first came to our cinema screens and whilst it was an obvious contender for a sequel, I had hoped that we wouldn’t see one.
You will know the original release of Johnny English to be a spy spoof and the eponymous Mr English (Rowan Atkinson) to be the most rubbish spy that ever lived. In Johnny English Reborn, he is hoping to put all that monarchy strangling and buffoonery behind him. We now see him at a far eastern retreat: learning how to let go of past mistakes, put mind over matter and dragging bigger and bigger rocks around with his testicles.
MI7 eventually call for him to come back and take charge of a case – discovering who is planning to assassinate the Chinese premier, an issue which is worrying them all, quite rightly. A woman, wearing very high heels, is now head of MI7 (Gillian Anderson), welcomes English back in an extremely lukewarm manner : she tells him she has agreed to have him back only very reluctantly and he better not mess up. English gets a brand new sidekick to talk down to, MI7 junior spy, Agent Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya) and off he goes to preserve world peace. The mission doesn’t go well and English is left with just two friends in the entire world: Agent Tucker and a behavioural psychologist named Kate Sumner (the luminescent Rosamund Pike).
Spoofs have the potential to be very popular. However, they do rely heavily on you not seeing the jokes coming, or if you do see them coming, rely on you still wanting to laugh. I have to admit that on most occasions, I did see the jokes coming and I did not want to laugh.
However, despite the lack of belly laughs, there is a sort of bumbly charm to the film. I chortled a few times, mostly due to the pronunciation accentuations that Rowan Atkinson is so famous for, but also because a couple of scenes (involving toilet visits and low flying helicopters) were genuinely funny.
The performances were a mixed bag: Anderson was fairly wooden as Pegasus, Rowan Atkinson was, well, a combination of Blackadder and Mr Bean, Dominic West made an ok smug golden boy of a spy, Pike was very shiny and Kaluuya was endearing as English’s uncertain sidekick.
I wasn’t expecting much so I was reasonably entertained: you might be too.