Title: Johnny English Strikes Again
Country: UK, France, USA
Genre: Comedy, Action, Adventure
Director: David Kerr
Screenwriter: William Davies
Music: Howard Goodall
Cinematography: Florian Hoffmeister
With its longer-than-usual gaps between each installment (2003, 2011, and 2018), the JOHNNY ENGLISH franchise conspicuously falls back on the passing of time to let its core audience forget how middle-of-the-road the movies are, and at least it works for this reviewer, with a clean slate (does anyone still remember what happened in the two prequels?), he briskly ponies up for a third time, simply because jolly, inoffensive comedies are like gold dust nowadays.
Since only under one circumstance that the inept former secret agent Johnny English (Atkinson) could be permitted for a new field job as he currently devotes all his time in the prepping of future espionage practitioners, the premise is that the identities of all current British agents are leaked by an anonymous cyber attack, and after Johnny inadvertently disposes of other fellow retirees (cameos by Dance, Fox and Gambon), he is the only one left to do the job, and boy, he does it with such volition and determination, but in an old-fashion style, even a gorgeous femme fatale Ophelia (a habitually befogged Kurylenko, recycles and jests her Bond girl image with below-bar common sense) can hardly distract him to nail down the antagonist, an internet-era technology wunderkind Jason Volton (a bumptious Lacy).
The schtick, as usual, is Mr. Atkinson’s brilliant comic physicality aided by garden-variety visual jokes, that saves the day (the virtual reality skit is really funny). Meantime elsewhere, this economical BOND parody is low in ambition, panache and coherence (spatially, it goes as far away as the southern France and a dim-lit Scottish castle way too shabby to hold a G8 summit), but what is unexpectedly disarming is a sense of self-knowledge, a humility of complying with audience’s expectation, a bungling, old-school one-track-mind trying to make his job done, with a little help of sheer luck and his opponent’s oceanic denseness, no more no less, which can be best attested by the scene where the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (a Ms. May channeling Thompson) calls Johnny on the carpet and insults him as an imbecile, follows by the actress’ fleeting uneasiness of her vituperation, a telltale sign that sticking-to-the-middle-road is the party line behind this rehashed potboiler.
referential entries: Oliver Parker’s JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN (2011, 5.5/10), Peter Howitt’s JOHNNY ENGLISH (2003, 5.2/10).