Mr Bean’s Holiday was bad, but this is worse.
The same catastrophic mixture of slapstick comedy, toilet humour and talentless gurning have been reunited for a woeful attempt at “comedy”, which fails to elicit a single chuckle.
At least the first Johnny English film had novelty on its side. The familiar conventions and quirks of the beloved Bond films were mocked tirelessly and the outcome was a light-hearted family film which raised a few smiles and kept the kids amused. This latest English instalment is full of tired and predictable routines whereby Rowan Atkinson falls over, sits on a cat, knocks out a man with a golf ball and then, horror of horrors, stands on a plank to hit a man in the goolies. Yes, this film makes the most of every single exhausted “comedy” cliché out there. It actually verges on being a parody of itself, which is quite some feat.
We catch up with the hapless hero seven years on from the first film and high in the Tibetan mountains. In between the two films, an ambiguous mishap in Mozambique forced English (Atkinson) to fall from MI-7 grace and he has been repenting ever since. Armed with refreshed mental strength and physical prowess (supposedly), the agent is called back to prevent the assassination of the Chinese PM by a secret, evil supergroup. But in order to succeed he must smoke out the “vole” (as Johnny describes him) within MI-7.
But the Bond franchise has also progressed since 2003, when Johnny English first fumbled onto our screens. The overwhelming amount of product placement elbowed in to the Bond movies has reached an all time high. The Johnny English team have noticed this too and cleverly feature the British Intelligence HQ, now sponsored by Toshiba (‘Spying For You’), and iPads are in place of almost any other electrical device. But the film’s attempts to satirise a shameless attitude to placement are so weak that they appear to be nothing more than a convenient way to make a quick buck. The box office certainly cannot be relied upon.
Of the very few funny moments, English’s attempts to fight himself as a mind control drug does its worst and the malfunctioning height adjuster on a chair are the best. But any viewer who knows what Atkinson is capable of will ultimately find these bittersweet hints at the greatness of his talent just too painful to enjoy
One of the most famous and fabulous Bond chase scenes is also recreated in Reborn, with English parachuting off a mountain and onto a snowy slope. But this is where any chase scene comparisons end. In what is supposed to be the climax of the film, English careers around the streets of London in a wheelchair. All good directors know that if all else fails, poke a bit of fun at the disabled. Why not?!
Performances from Dominic West (The Wire), Rosamund Pike and Tim McInnerny are fine. But they knew this was not an award-winner. Pike plays a behaviour therapist with the British Intelligence and her frequent impressions of a blow-up doll, as English performs one antic after another, are by far the most convincing and entertaining thing about this dire film.