Johnny English Strikes Again

JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN. Rowan Atkinson, Ben Miller, Olga Kurylenko, Jake Lacy, Emma Thompson. Directed by David Kerr. 89 minutes. Rated PG (Mild violence and coarse language).

The third instalment in the ‘Johnny English’ franchise strands a game Rowan Atkinson in an only fitfully funny and wholly predictable parody of the spy genre. Atkinson’s features are as rubbery as they were in his early days of playing his iconic creation, Mr. Bean, and he launches himself with abandon into English’s utter incompetence and lack of self-awareness. However, the jokes and the slapstick are – for the most part – so incredibly lame and the plot so boring, that it’s a wonder the film

The film opens with English in retirement, teaching geography at a posh grammar school while also slipping lessons on camouflage, weaponry and seduction into his curriculum when no one else is looking. You’d be forgiven for hoping that the film follows the retired spy and his new recruits in action, given the potential for fun that it represents, but alas, this is not the case. Instead, he’s invited out of retirement when a cyberattack releases the identities of every MI7 serving agents (similar plot points have been used in just about every spy movie released in recent memory, from the first ‘Mission: Impossible’ to ‘Skyfall’). Unable to use any of the outed agents, MI7 turn to English to hunt down the mystery attacker.

Reunited with Bough (Ben Miller, as committed as Atkinson), his sidekick from the first film, English traces the attack to the South of France, where he identifies a suspicious pleasure cruiser as the source. He is soon drawn to a beautiful Russian woman (Olga Kurylenko), ostensibly because of her looks, but Bough knows (as will audiences) that she knows more than she is letting on. While English and Bough are off galivanting around France, the British PM (Emma Thompson) forges ahead with her own solution to the continuing cyberattacks. Enlisting the help of technology whiz and business tycoon Jason Volta (Jake Lacy), the hapless PM tries to

The script, penned by William Davies, is light on plot but heavy on simple situations overtly loaded with potential gags. Frustratingly, many of them are left as missed opportunities, with the aggressively lame attempts at humour tending to grate rather than tickle. We get a long montage of English dancing in a nightclub, which is more painful than … while

Some moments land, normally when Atkinson’s performance runs into something that matches his , such as English struggling to remember an alias that he only just invented, or shouting  with … The flat screenplay is enlivened briefly by its playful, Rube-Goldberg-esque ending, but it’s too little too late.

Callum Ryan is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

Out September 20.

Universal Pictures.Johnny

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