Movie review: More laughs from bumbling spy in Johnny English Strikes Again

English comedian Rowan Atkinson's flair for physical comedy remains intact in his new movie, Johnny English Strikes Again.
English comedian Rowan Atkinson's flair for physical comedy remains intact in his new movie, Johnny English Strikes Again.PHOTO: UIP

Third film in the Johnny English franchise, which sees Rowan Atkinson playing a secret agent, offers mildly amusing moments



89 minutes/Opens today/3 stars

The story: All the agents of MI7, the British intelligence service, have been exposed following a cyber attack. That leaves the out-of-commission Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) as the only spy left to track down the mastermind. Faced with a digitally savvy villain, he and sidekick Angus Bough (Ben Miller) go old-school analogue.

There is something ageless about English comedian Atkinson.

He is probably best known internationally for playing the character Mr Bean, who is forever stumbling into one ridiculous situation after another. That character made his first appearance in 1990.

Twenty-eight years later, Atkinson is as spry and limber as ever at 63, if slightly greyer of hair.

And his flair for physical comedy remains intact.

In one scene, he twists and thrusts with great aplomb on the dance floor after taking some energy-boosting pills.

He can also be funny with just a small gesture.

When an inflatable boat swells up in a car, his face is smooshed against a window, leaving just an eyeball moving about.

As testament to his enduring popularity, the combined worldwide box office of the first two films in the franchise - Johnny English (2003) and Johnny English Reborn (2011) - is more than US$320 million.

The most inspired scene here is one in which English thinks he is in a virtual simulation inside a target's house, but he has actually wandered onto the streets of London and is smacking down hapless bystanders, including an old woman in a wheelchair.

Otherwise, the movie from director David Kerr (Inside No. 9, 2014 to 2018) does not veer far from being mildly amusing and pleasant enough.

Atkinson as the bumbling and fumbling English is well supported by Miller as his earnest and loyal sidekick.

Emma Thompson takes a break from more serious films and has fun playing the impatient and vainglorious British prime minister.

And appropriately enough for a spoof of suave spy flicks, Olga Kurylenko - the Bond girl in Quantum Of Solace (2008) - plays the femme fatale here.

In the finale, English gets suited up in a clunky coat of armour and tries to save the day, hobbling along at snail's pace. Not quite the shining knight.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2018, with the headline 'More laughs from bumbling spy'. Print Edition | Subscribe