JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN
In the five years since MI-7's top spy Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) vanished off the grid, he has been honing his martial arts skills in a remote region of Asia. But when MI7 chief (Gillian Anderson) learns of an attempt against the Chinese premier's life, her team must find the highly unorthodox agent. With one shot at redemption, he must employ the latest in hi-tech gadgets to unravel a web of conspiracy that runs through the KGB, CIA and even MI-7. He has a young trainee agent, Tucker (Daniel Kaluuva) to help him, and some backroom help from behaviour study expert Kate Summer (Rosamund Pike).
Review by Louise Keller:
Eight years after the first film, Rowan Atkinson is back as the James Bond-styled spy with the bumbling nature and hilarious facial expressions. With a new director, new screenwriters and a spanking new adventure, Johnny English Reborn is funnier and more complete than the original, with Atkinson in fine fettle, displaying the unique style of comedy he has honed into an artform. The comedy fires through innocence as the hapless, well-intentioned MI-7 agent makes naive mistakes and assumptions with hilarious consequences. I laughed and chuckled throughout this smartly written and executed comedy whose brand of humour is eccentric, gentle and totally Atkinson.
When the film begins, English is learning new skills in a Tibetan monastery. Any mention of the major mess in Mozambique which prompted him to be thrown out of MI-7 as its top spy and stripped of his knighthood prompts his malleable face to twitch and contort uncontrollably. But all that seems to be behind him, when English is returned into the fold with a new secret mission - to stop a dangerous group of international assassins from eliminating another world leader.
Things have changed a tad in his absence at the newly named Toshiba branded British Intelligence Service and there are new personnel in charge. Rosamund Pike is gorgeous as Kate Summer, the observant behavioral psychologist who looks for facial tell-tale signs and with whom English has some delightful moments. Gillian Anderson is rather mannered as the MI-7 head, Dominic West plays English's long time spy colleague and I like Daniel Kaluuya as Tucker, the new young spy on the block with good instincts, assigned to partner English. There are new high-tech spy gadgets too, offering unlimited opportunities for English to misuse.
The film unspools like one continuous delightful gag as it changes locations, ending in the spectacular French Alps (doubling for Switzerland) amid snow, pine trees and cable cars. There are music jokes too and a running gag involving a mean, white-haired Asian assassin impersonating a cleaning lady with a lethal vacuum cleaner. The scene in which Atkinson's left and right hand have a fight against each other is not only funny, but clever to boot - or to hand. It's not rocket science, but Atkinson gives an English lesson worth a decent score.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
For his fans, just seeing Rowan Atkinson's face is enough to make them laugh, but when he starts to actually do anything, go anywhere or say something, we know accidents follow. In Johnny English, England's version of the bumbling US spy Maxwell Smart, Atkinson has found the ultimate vehicle for his kind of humour, in which the more responsibility his character has, the least likely he is to get it right - except by accident.
In this new adventure (eight years after the birth of the character), complete with caricatures of characters, elements and plot points from the James Bond franchise, English is a disgraced former agent of MI-7 and keeping a low profile in a remote Tibetan Buddhist monastery learning how to survive heavy kicks to his genitals by pulling a large stone attached to a string which is held fast in his tender region. Oh, he does do other training, too, and his master also passes him bits of wisdom that may or may not help in any confrontation with baddies.
And of course there are plenty of those; English is reluctantly summoned by MI-7 (Gillian Anderson the rough equivalent of Judi Dench in recent James Bond films, as the agency boss), only because the informant who has the information will only talk to English. MI-7, incidentally, has apparently sold naming rights to Toshiba - a nice touch in a product-placement-heavy movie, this one is a self-aware joke. Another is the voice-activated Rolls Royce, which English orders about, calling it 'Royce'.
The plot centres on a special set of three interlocking stainless steel keys which unlock the container that holds a powerful mind control drug - which can be used to make a man (or woman) do the unthinkable. Like assassinate the Chinese Premier.
Atkinson's rolling eyes and his bulbous nose are so versatile that he has often managed to get through entire episodes of his TV show without speaking a word. As Johnny English, though, he has to talk, but that doesn't take away from his physical comedic genius.
Dominic West is effective as fellow agent Simon, and Rosamund Pike is superb as Kate, the behaviour specialist who finds English fascinating - and lovable. Pike plays it absolutely straight, as does West, which is to the film's great advantage. Anderson is a little seduced by the comedic aspects but Daniel Kaluuva is a major boost as English's sidekick Tucker, a young man whose ambition is to be a serious agent. Just as English dreamt of being Agent One eight years ago.
Action and humour are rolled into a grand, fizzling ball as the thrills of a spy story collide with Atkinson's inspired buffoonery. The theft of set pieces from the Bond archives is all the more effective for the comedy context.
Some laughs are LOL, some are muted, some are mere smiles, but the film's tone throughout is unpredictable, but we know it's only a matter of time before a punch becomes a punch line.
Published first in the Sun-Herald
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GILLIAN ANDERSON & OLIVER PARKER INTERVIEWS
JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN (PG)
CAST: Rowan Atkinson, Dominic West, Gillian Anderson, Rosamund Pike, Daniel Kaluuya, Richard Schiff, Ben Miller,
PRODUCER: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Chris Clark
DIRECTOR: Oliver Parker
SCRIPT: Hamish McColl, William Davies
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Danny Cohen
EDITOR: Guy Bensley
MUSIC: Ilan Eshkeri
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jim Clay
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 15, 2011