Rowan Atkinson is an incredible physical comedian. Johnny English Reborn
is not an incredible film.
There are certain comedians who seem to effortlessly make you laugh. There's just something about them that makes you look at them and begin laughing hysterically. For the most part, Rowan Atkinson is such a comedian. Being almost effortlessly funny as a stand-up comedian, however, doesn't always translate to the big screen. Hollywood is literally littered with the cremated careers of stand-up comics who've failed miserably when making the leap from comedy to the big screen. While Rowan Atkinson isn't quite at the bottom of the Hollywood barrel, he seems to have climbed into the barrel as it's preparing to plummet over Niagara Falls.
In an unnecessary sequel to a mostly forgettable film, Johnny English Reborn
brings back Atkinson as English, who has apparently gone in hiding, think Rambo,
after a disastrous mission. When a not so mysterious organization begins planting moles into various spy agencies with an eye on the Chinese premier, English is recruited back by Pegasus (Gillian Anderson) and, of course, we're treated to nearly two more hours of Rowan Atkinson being Johnny English,
a sort of super spy variation of his familiar Mr. Bean character.
While Atkinson is certainly a gifted physical comedian, his mostly kid-friendly shtick is softened even moreso here by the film's timid PG-rating and gags that really never go much of anywhere after the film's promising opening moments. Fans of Atkinson, and there are many, will find enough here to enjoy the film but it's doubtful that Johnny English Reborn
will win the actor any new fans.
There's something so good-natured about Atkinson, though, that makes it almost impossible to not like his films on a certain level. His character here is less winning than Mr. Bean, but he's still an appealing chap that you can't help but enjoy. When he's not after the bad guys, English flirts with a beautiful behavioral psychologist (An on her game Rosamund Pike) and tries to knock down Agent Tucker (Daniel Kuluuya), his partner/sitter. He's seemingly oblivious to the threat of another agent (Dominic West), but through it all he's occasionally quite hilarious.
Occasionally being the key word.
At 101 minutes, Johnny English Reborn
feels at least 15 minutes too long. Director Oliver Parker (An Ideal Husband)
seems to not quite grasp how to make best use of Atkinson's physical comedy, though to be fair the script from William Davies and Hamish McColl doesn't exactly give him much to work with beyond repeated groin jokes. The original Johnny English
was a surprise worldwide hit ($132 million) despite mediocre reviews and a sub-par American box-office of $28 million versus its production budget of $40 million. It'll be interesting to see if the rest of the world warms up to the rebirth of Johnny English. Here in the U.S.? It should be expected that more of the same Johnny English
should add up to even less at the box-office.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic