The first Johnny English came out back in 2003 and it wasn’t very funny. A silly-in-all-the-wrong-ways movie that was trying to be both a spoof of spy movies and a spy movie in its own right and it just didn’t work. Therefore I did not think for one second they would make a sequel.
But I guess money talks (the first one made $160 million on a $40 million budget) as alas, eight years later, we have Johnny English Reborn, the sequel nobody asked for. This time the titular character (played once more by Rowan Atkinson) is off living as a monk in the mountains of Tibet after a botched mission some years prior (this is how they work into the story the gap between the first movie and this). One day, surprise, surprise, he is called back into action by MI7 to go on a mission involving an assassination attempt. Hilarity ensues…
…Or at least that’s what you’d hope for. But sadly Johnny English Reborn is as tired and repetitive as it was the first time around (perhaps even more so). Despite an incessant barrage of jokes, ranging from visual gags to “witty” wordplay, the film tries its all to get every possibly laugh it can out of everything. And points for trying, absolutely, but the trouble is you can literally predict every gag before they happen, one of the things you certainly don’t want in a comedy. It goes for the cheapest, obvious, bottom of the barrel humour time and time again. I realise this is a movie aimed as much at kids as it is at adults but there has to be something beyond the level of humour that delivers, for example, Atkinson in a body bag repeatedly banging into a wall or jokes about a special gadget turning his voice squeaky. There are at least 60 separate gags in the movie and I laughed a grand total of twice (and even those were just small giggles).
It’s bizarre that Atkinson, once again, would lower himself to this type of project, especially considering it didn’t work out so well the first time around. He has an amazing gift for physical comedy (just look at his famous almost-mute Mr. Bean role as proof) but even his talents can’t make this most predictable and basic humour funny. I found Steve Carell’s updated portrayal of a goofy spy in Get Smart infinitely more effective, perhaps because it was about more than just the silly jokes (of which there was still plenty, mind you).
When you have a film like this which throws so many jokes at you throughout, it stands to reason a good percentage of them are going to hit the mark. But this is an action-comedy that aims low with its humour but even fails at that. There is clearly an audience out there who eat this sort of thing up but I found Johnny English Reborn an unfunny, monotonous and trite failure.