Cynics might be too quick to mock the news of another Johnny English film. But Johnny English Rebornis one example of a sequel that knocks spots off the original, which admittedly wasn’t hard, purely because those involved have had eight years to mull over the mistakes made in the first to now offer a better plot, script and visual gags.
This time, Johnny English, played by comedy hero Rowan Atkinson, goes up against international assassins set on taking down the Chinese premier. However, the real danger may be lurking closer to home…
Atkinson plays a more mature English in this, more suave, sexier and closer to the bumbling Bond persona the original film-makers attempted to capture, rather than Mr Bean in a penguin suit playing silly spy games. As far back as Clouseau, we all love an earnest fool out of control who strives to do the right thing. English appeals with his sense of loyalty, his values and his sporadic playfulness that shine through his flaws, making it easy to root for him until the bitter end.
Atkinson naturally uses the facial tools of his trade, tapping into Blackadder and Bean characteristics for fans, but never veering too far in either direction. He doesn’t portray English as a complete and utter fool, like a Frank Drebin character from Naked Gun, so unbelievable as an active agent that the rest of the plot feels totally ridiculous – as in the first English film. Atkinson brilliantly plays English as straight as a die, with the surrounding fallout being the hilarity, like any good comedic character worth his weight. However, the slapstick set pieces remain the main bread and butter of this type of comedy but are far better timed and carried out, even if their punchlines can be seen coming from the other side of the universe.
Director Oliver Parker also has an array of new spy-superhero films like the Bourne and latter-day Batman and Bond sagas to reference, and a big factor of the enjoyment in Reborn is seeing how these film nods are played out in the incredible world of English, and more importantly, tailored for family audience tastes. The baddies seem more authentic, too, and the addition of a bigger budget means more action and drama added to the standard comedy farce affair.
Reborn has secured an exciting new cast of Gillian Anderson, Dominic West and Rosamund Pike, all surprising to see involved, given the previous film’s mixed reception, but all injecting their individual charisma to make their MI7 characters more credible, while upping the style stakes. Their presence also changes the nature of this sequel, compared to the first film full of panto performances, in addition to the new action-thriller source material that the writers have tapped into.
Aside from the A-list attraction and action sequences – many of which are glimpsed in the trailer, no Bond spoof would be complete without the gadgets, of which there are plenty and supplied by Q character Patch Quartermain, played by Blackadder colleague Tim McInnerny. This is another thrill for fans of the iconic TV sitcom that reunites Atkinson and McInnerny on screen together after eighteen years.
As with the old faces, comes the new, with The Fades actor Daniel Kaluuya as English’s weary right-hand man, Agent Tucker, who nicely compliments Atkinson in many of their scenes together, doing an apt job of portraying our reactions to unravelling events.
Unlike English’s impending catastrophes, Johnny English Reborn is no accident waiting to happen, rather a well-executed, well-written sequel with a lot more spice and action to it – cue the metaphorical ‘job-well-done’ scene in the end credits. In short, it’s pure English buffoonery executed by Atkinson on a bit of a film career revival, and an absolute giggle a minute.
By Lisa Giles-Keddie
**WATCH THE TRAILER HERE