While there are laughs, Johnny English Strikes Again doesn’t have enough to over come the predictable cliches throughout this spy comedy.
That the film starts out with a cyber attack revealing the identities of every single undercover agent in Britain isn’t a problem. It’s that this EXACT trope was played out before ten years ago in the film remake, Get Smart! It just so happens that Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) happens to be retired from the spy world and currently teaching. Johnny is one of the few agents not to be exposed but trio of elder agents have probably sipped their last martini in the field.
Once he’s back in action again for MI7, Johnny re-teams with his old partner, Bough (Ben Miller). With digital technology at risk, they opt for old school and analog. It’s upon tracing the attack to southern France where their investigation leads them to the Dot Calm yacht and subsequently, possible Russsian spy Ophelia (Olga Kurylenko). While all this is going on, the British Prime Minister (Emma Thompson) is trying to make a deal with Silicon Valley tech billionare Jason Volta (Jake Lacy).
You may end up missing some of the Johnny English backstory but the first two films don’t even feel necessary to viewing this film. While the film may close the Johnny English story, the fact remains that it’s so full of spy comedy cliches. I think it was early on in the film when I wrote down that BLANK is the villain. Lo and behold, I was proven right. This is because the film plays in to the tropes and cliches that we’ve seen time and time again.
If you’ve seen The Pink Panther or Get Smart, you know that they did this all before. These franchises are the ones who laid the foundation. What other films choose to do with that foundation is where they make or break. Listen, I come from the comedy scene. I’ve taken both improv and writing classes if you’d like to know exactly where I’m coming from. I’m not panning this film because I hated it. I certainly didn’t hate it. I don’t think it’s perfect but I’m also probably somewhere in the middle. It’s not even a case of hating that I was laughing. It’s that the film is riddled with overdone cliches that just need to be retired. If not retired, maybe another approach.
There’s some nice gags here, especially one with a VR simulation. Atkinson remains one of the masters at the slapstick game. He’d certainly give Peter Sellers a run for his money to say the least.
Johnny English Strikes Again may have laughs but the premise is altogether lacking an approach that hasn’t been done before.
DIRECTOR: David Kerr
SCREENWRITER: William Davies
CAST: Rowan Atkinson, Olga Kurylenko, Emma Thompson, Jake Lacy, Adam James, Ben Miller