Johnny English Reborn Review
Comedy through repetition.
This movie was something of a landmark for me, in that this is the first movie I have seen in years (and most definitely since I started doing these reviews) wherein I can pinpoint the exact moment it officially started to suck. Most movies either start off sucking, like walking into a boring political theory lecture where the professor insist on calling everyone Mr. or Ms. So and So, or they start off looking like something almost decent but the suckage steadily builds pressure like an impending bowel movement at a giant swap meet where the only toilets are Porto-Potties that haven’t seen a cleaning hose in many a moon. You keep trying to deny the need to express the suckage, but eventually you have to bite the bullet and admit that what you have been watching for the last 45 minutes has been total garbage.
No, this movie picked an exact moment to shift from stupid/funny to just plain old stupid. In case you were wondering, it’s when Johnny English is flying a helicopter to get a dying man to a hospital and decides the best way is to follow the road. At a height of two feet. Until then it was definitely dumb, but dumb in a funny way. After that the funny was smothered by the pillow of stupidity.
That’s kind of a lot of analogies for two paragraphs, but it has been that kind of day. Anyway, Johnny English Reborn. Yes, it is a sequel and no, I did not see the first one. Does that make me unqualified to review the sequel? Probably. However, unless the first one was the Citizen Kane of physical comedies, I am pretty sure I got the gist of what this character is about. He’s a cocktail made with equal parts James Bond, Jacues Cousteau, and Austin Powers filtered through a dog hair colander and left underground for a few months to ferment into comedy kim chee. Did I miss anything? I don’t think so.
Anyway, between the last movie and this one Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson – Mr. Bean, Mr. Bean’s Holiday, Johnny English, the Lion King) was disgraced in Mozambique for letting the new president get assassinated. He has spent the last five years living with Tibetan monks learning how to get kicked in the balls. For no reason whatsoever a former CIA operative has some kind of top secret information and says he will only give it to Johnny, in spite of the fact that they both act like they never met each other. Johnny gets pulled back into MI7 (which is now partnered up with Toshiba, a running gag that probably looked a lot funnier on paper) by a long lost dream woman of mine, Gillian Anderson (Scully was in many ways the perfect woman. Hot, super smart, red headed, carried a gun, and used handcuffs. What more could a guy ask for?). He is partnered up with Tucker, a young agent (Daniel Kaluuya. His filmography feels a bit on the sparse side), who goes with them to meet the CIA guy. A Chinese sexagenarian hit/cleaning woman (Pik Sen Lim, and the only character who I consistently liked) with a killer vacuum kills his contact, but Johnny learns of a secret team of assassins called Vortex, who are out to kill the Chinese Prime Minister. Johnny gets one of the three key parts absolutely needed for Vortex to accomplish their goal but loses it in a bumbling scene that would embarrass Cousteau.
Anyway, he gets in trouble. More assassins are uncovered. He goes through a really long and drawn out chase scene in a powered wheelchair through London. A super hot blond falls in love with him for no apparent reason. Some not really funny running gags get beaten into the ground until you literally want to gag. More Austinteaubondian hijinks ensue. The plot twists feel more like gentle bends on a freeway, and are in almost all circumstances facilitated by the general stupidity of not just English but the entire cast.
The stars. There were some funny moments, especially some of the physical comedy. That is one thing Rowan Atkinson can really do. One star. Gillian Anderson. One star. The Chinese cleaning woman/assassin was funny. One star. Total: three stars.
The black holes. The biggest problem is the movie couldn’t decide if it was a comedy action spy movie or an action spy movie with comedy elements. The story and plot were too serious to be a good vehicle for slapstick, and the slapstick was too over the top to allow you to take the story seriously. One black hole. Rated PG, not even PG13. At this point I don’t think PG13 has ever hurt a movies’ gross. Put a curse word in there somewhere. One star. Beating multiple dead horses. One black hole. Not even an attempt to make the movie remotely smart or clever. I expect more from movies that feature British accents. One black hole. All the characters were hand picked from the shelves of Stereotypes-R-Us. One black hole. At the end of this comedy, I just didn’t find it very funny. One black hole. Total: six black holes.
A grand total of three black holes. Look, it’s pretty obvious what happened here. The first Johnny English bombed horribly here in the US, but did phenomenally well overseas. Rowen Atkinsons physical comedy translates well, and we see a lot of it here, including a one-hand-against-the-other fight scene lifted almost frame for frame from the Evil Dead 2 (Ash image courtesy of the horror movie t shirts). I don’t think the producers of this film expect to have lightning strike so much as they are going to milk the international cow. This sort of thing makes money, I guess. It just seems that if you are going to go to the effort of making a film that you plan to release in the US anyway, why not put some effort into it and make it work here too?
I’d say don’t see this film until it shows up on NetFlix streaming, and at that point smoke a lot of pot while watching it. It won’t hurt your brain. If you have kids the PG rating makes it very appropriate, and it is funny enough and entertaining enough to keep mom and dad from clawing out their eyes while watching. Otherwise let’s just throw it on the pile.
Thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. I have no idea what’s coming up this weekend. I think I will do another Star Trek retrospective tomorrow. Talk to you soon.