Johnny English Reborn
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 9th October 2011
Five years after a botched operation in Mozambique, debonair but bumbling British agent Johnny English is brought out of enforced retirement at a Buddhist retreat in Tibet, where he has been sent to forget his shame and shed his weakness. Aside from an involuntary nervous twitch and slightly greyer hair, he’s in good shape. And so, gleefully, Rowan Atkinson returns to our screens in a role that mixes perfectly his gift for physical comedy and the dulcet tones that could entice many a Bond girl into bed.
Much more sophisticated in its scripting and production than the previous Johnny English outing, the film clearly takes its lead from the recent Bond and Bourne movies, including a now-obligatory rooftop chase scene which brilliantly sends up those other earnest and much more physical heroes. There are clever modern touches in the head of MI7 being a working mother, although coupled inevitably with the overused Bean-esque instances of mistaken identity and embarrassing faux-pas.
This spy-spoof borrows its fine cast from the very best television (The Wire, West Wing, and X-Files are all represented), and even throws in a real Bond girl for good measure (the delicious Rosamund Pike), a psychologist who tells the enchanted agent “I read people”. To which he replies, ever the charmer, “I think you’d find me a real page turner.” While Atkinson as romantic lead may stretch credibility, he hasn’t lost his comic touch, eliciting tear-inducing laughter through something as simple as a malfunctioning chair. It’s nothing new, it’s not consistently clever, but Johnny English Reborn is a belly-laughing, family-friendly delight from beginning to end.