In a world filled with serious and kick-ass James Bond’s and Ethan Hunt’s, especially after the expectedly explosive summer blockbuster season and approaching the very serious fall award season fair, one man and one film aims to give audiences the laugh-out-loud moments and gags everyone deserves. Johnny English Strikes Again may be a Rowan Atkinson vehicle for a once applauded physical-comedy actor to cash a cheque in a cultural landscape where audiences are obsessed with uber realism and knock-your-socks off action, but the placement of the newest English film may be the spy’s most daring mission yet.
What is the third (and perhaps final) entry of the spoof spy series, Atkinson returns in his second most memorable role as a spy with no clue as to what he is actually doing. Call it luck or being surrounded by the best company possible with his reliable and witty sidekick Bough (Ben Miller), Johnny English Strikes Again is one heck of an entertaining, silly and gratuitous time at the movies during a heavy hitting awards filled season.
Approaching sixty-four years of age, Atkinson still proves that he still looks dashing in a suit and willing to fill the spy shoes once again, maybe not giving Cruise a run for his money for his physical stunt work, but surely showing that his elastic face and comedy acting chops are surely not a thing of the past. Yet, the film’s plot of a cyber hacker infiltrating all the knowns agents within the British Intelligence agency, is the main focus of the film, English must use as little tech as possible, to track down a villain who’s biggest threat, is technology itself. Refusing cellphones, glitzy gizmos and gadgets, English and Bough track down their nemesis using good old fashion guns (that require them to fill out health and safety forms), skeletal armour suits and of course, their most reliable tool…pay-phones.
While the premise of Strikes Again couldn’t be more spot on for a spy-spoof film in 2018, its English’s interactions with the high-tech gadgets that truly get the best laughs throughout the course of the film, most notably, a hysterical virtual reality simulation scene that finds English wandering, crawling and scaling the streets of London, sporting a virtual reality mask and imaginative tools and weapons, to defeat his virtual enemies.
While it may be hard to believe that these films has any sort of cult following or intense built-in audience, the last two entries in the franchise, which more than quadrupled their production budgets, prove that the Johnny English franchise and trademark is alive and kicking, even if those kick aren’t too painful or threatening. Atkinson proves that English is most effective when the actor so effortlessly spoofs his British humour, along with his signature elastic facial expressions and slippery unknowingness.
Whats most impressive of the English franchise, especially when thinking of the newest entry is the unexpected star-power in front of the camera. Emma Thompson, who plays the very naive and bewildered Prime Minister, brings some of the films biggest laughs purely from dialogue and delivery, showcasing Thompson’s comedic chops which may surely be unexpected coming from such a renown British actress whose focal comedic chops come in the form of British romantic comedies and family friendly films. The film also boasts cameos from acting greats like Michael Gambon, Charles Dance and Edward Fox, as well as making a very tongue-in-cheek casting with Olga Kurylenko, a former Bond girl in the most recent Daniel Craig era.
While many may think that slap-stick comedy may very well be a thing of the past, Johnny English Strikes Again shows that during a very crowded and formal season of movies, a few strikes of comedy wit, hilarity and fun may be exactly what audiences may be craving after all. Even if those strikes are more inclined to deliver tickles and giggles, Johnny English Strikes Again with exactly what you might expect, and that may very well be not so bad after all.
Night Film Reviews: 6.5 Stars out of 10.
What did you think of Johnny English Strikes Again? Franchise favourite or bottom of the barrel? IS Rowan Atkinson at top form or just cashing in? Leave your top-secret comments below, before they self-destruct.