In a week when every film playing at the four screens in town was either a remake or a sequel, I flipped a coin and ended up seeing Johnny English Reborn. A sequel rather than a remake, it stars Rowan Atkinson in a reprise of 2003’s Johnny English.
Atkinson, of course, is famed for his TV and film portrayal of Mr. Bean and the Blackadder TV series.
In the original Johnny English, Atkinson played a bumbling agent for the fictional British intelligence agency MI7, who thwarts a French mastermind’s plot to steal England’s Crown jewels, after all the agency’s intelligence operatives are eliminated through English’s incompetence.
In the current sequel, English is seen in exile in Tibet under the tutelage of Chinese Shaolin warriors as the film opens.
MI7 summons him back to London, when the agency uncovers a plot to assassinate the Chinese premier while he is attending a summit meeting with the British prime minister.
English returns to the scene of his disgrace, to find that the agency has undergone some drastic changes in his five-year absence, such as being privatized as Toshiba British Intelligence.
The agency is now headed up by a female chief, code-named Pegasus, played by The X-Files’ Gillian Anderson, who eschews male chauvinism, violence and gadgets, all of the staples of the James Bond world that this film so unashamedly satirizes.
Atkinson is at his best as he fumbles his way through a series of sight gags that capitalize on his trademark awkwardness and obliviousness. As an agent, he’s pretty incompetent, but he’s the last one to admit it.
Unwittingly heaving cats out of windows and beating up on old ladies such as Pegasus’ mother, whom he believes to be a hired killer, are just a few of his gaffes as he somehow blunders his way through to defeating an international conspiracy of assassins called Vortex.
English’s discomfort is visibly telegraphed by uncontrollable eye-twitching every time his experience in Mozambique, another personal disaster that further added to his status as persona non grata for MI7, is mentioned.
Just what happened in Mozambique remains a mystery, for English has suppressed all conscious memory of the incident.
MI7’s resident behavioural psychologist, Kate Summer – played by British actress Rosamund Pike – hypnotizes him to bring the memory to the surface.
Pike is a former Bond girl herself, having played in 2002’s Die Another Day. She was also in the recent Barney’s Version , and is featured in the upcoming The Big Year, which was partially filmed in the Yukon.
Johnny English Reborn goes over the well-trodden ground of Bond takeoffs, and sometimes gets a bit tiresome, but the juxtaposition of English’s ineptness with the famous Bond suaveness and coolness under fire does make for enough comic irony to sustain the film.
I personally found the film’s most hilarious moments to be when English is beating up on old ladies, and I don’t know what that says about my sense of humour.
English’s constant inability to control the innumerable secret agent’s gadgets from backfiring on him also makes for chuckles. All in all, Johnny English Reborn is a pleasant enough comedy that generally works well.
Johnny English Reborn plays at the Yukon Theatre at 6:45 and 9:15 p.m. It does not have a rating posted.