out of Five
Running time: 101
Lazily written and poorly directed, this is a disappointing, derivative and largely laugh-free comedy that never quite answers the question of why anybody needed a Johnny English sequel in the first place.
What's it all about?
Directed by Oliver Parker (the St Trinian's movies), Johnny English Reborn is a sequel to the 2003 original that, lest we forget, began life as a spin-off from a series of credit card commercials. Rowan Atkinson returns as bumbling MI7 agent Johnny English, who's called back into service by MI7 boss Pegasus (Gillian Anderson) after a lengthy spell in a Himalayan monastery following a bungled mission in Mozambique.
It transpires that a rogue CIA agent (Richard Schiff) has vital information about an imminent plot to assassinate the Chinese Prime Minister that he will only divulge to English, but things don't quite go according to plan and English soon finds himself framed for a murder he didn't commit. However, help is at hand in the form of sexy shrink Kate (Rosamund Pike), assigned sidekick Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya) and Johnny's idol, suave super-agent Simon Ambrose (Dominic West).
To be fair, there are a couple of mildly amusing moments, such as English not recognising the Prime Minister (Stephen Campbell Moore) or a cleverly written but not particularly well directed sequence that riffs on Bourne-style free-running chase scenes. There's also a decent post-credits sting (if you make it that far) that's better than anything else in the movie.
On top of that, the acting is fine: Atkinson gets the usual mileage out of his rubbery physicality, while there's strong support from both Pike and Kaluuya and West is nicely cast as English's Bond-alike idol. That said, Anderson is rather wasted as Pegasus and it's a shame she isn't given more to do.
The main problem is that the script is painfully derivative, with most gags and plot points lifted from either Get Smart or the Naked Gun movies. Similarly, the majority of the gags fall painfully flat, either through over-familiarity (the old 'attacking the wrong person by mistake' routine, used at least three times here) or poor direction or both.
It also doesn't help that Jean Dujardin and the OSS-117 movies have rather stolen Johnny English's thunder as far as spy spoof comedies are concerned – there's nothing here that even comes close to the wit and invention of Cairo, Nest of Spies, for example.
In short, despite the cast's best efforts, Johnny English Reborn is something of a disappointment, thanks to a lazy script, sluggish direction and a painful lack of laughs. Rent OSS-117: Cairo, Nest of Spies instead.