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Monday, October 17, 2011

Johnny English Reborn

I'm a bit behind in terms of films reviews but here's my latest review from Channel24. Coming soon, as well, are some capsule reviews of the last couple of weeks at the cinema.

What it's about:

Johnny English (played by Rowan Atkinson) is back – and this time the unlikely spy has to stop a group of assassins from assassinating the Chinese premier.

What we thought:

Johnny English Reborn is total rubbish. This, I'm sure, will come as a shock to absolutely no one – certainly not those of us who sat through the first film way back in 2003. And, yet, when you get right down to it, the Johnny English films' severe deficiency in the quality department really shouldn't be the given that it is always assumed to be. Not only do both films have solid supporting casts, they also have in Rowan Atkinson one of Britain's greatest comedic talents. Even putting aside Mr Bean, Atkinson has proven in Blackadder and numerous stand-up and sketch-comedy acts that he is a brilliant comedic master, equally adept at verbal and physical comedy.

Surely, then, a James Bond spoof starring Rowan Atkinson and a wide assortment of top notch acting talent (Rosamund Pike, Richard Schiff, Gillian Anderson and The Wire's Dominic West) should have at least raised a few more titters than this? Where did it all go wrong?

What it basically comes down to is this – and pardon me if this seems excessively obvious: regardless of how impressive the talent is in front of the camera, it's the people behind the camera that most determine the artistic success of a film. Rowan Atkinson is a supremely funny performer (Don't believe me? Type "Rowan Atkinson Live" into YouTube, click on any of the resulting video links and prepare to have your funny bone seriously tickled) but there's only so much that even he can do with a script this limp.

Johnny English Reborn is far from the year's worst comedy – how could it be when people like Adam Sandler and Martin Lawrence still insist on regularly polluting our cinemas with the likes of Big Mommas House 3 and Born To Be A Star – but it's still shameful just how flat every single one of its jokes fall. Part of the blame must be laid at the feet of director Oliver Parker because this is, presumably, his vision we see on screen but the biggest problem with both Johnny English films clearly lies in the writing.

What we have here is a film that is a textbook example of that old idiom: aiming to please everyone, pleases no one. They have tried so hard to create a film that will appeal to all demographics and audiences that it simply won't leave anyone entirely satisfied. It's too stupid too work as a satire but too interested in being a Bond satire to work for the Mr Bean crowd.

It's too childish for anyone over 10 but its plot is probably too convoluted to truly work for kids. Most importantly, it's too flippant and toothless for it to work as a spy movie and too in love with its own plotting and action film pretensions to work as a comedy.

The best you could say about Johnny English Reborn is that it's never offensively terrible and, at 100 minutes long including credits, it goes by at a decent enough clip but, when you consider how good a proper spy spoof starring Rowan Atkinson could be if anyone bothered to put some effort into it, moderately inoffensive actually isn't good enough.

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