Rowan Atkinson’s bumbling spy Johnny English started as a series of British bank/credit card ads. Then it morphed into a couple of decidedly mediocre sequels – with the quality going decidedly downhill.
This lackluster episode begins after a catastrophic cyber-attack paralyzes MI7, exposing their entire undercover agent roster. Since no one else is available, the frantic Prime Minister (Emma Thompson, channeling Theresa May) is forced to re-activate incompetent Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson), who has been surreptitiously teaching old-fashioned espionage techniques in a provincial school.
Working with his long-suffering wingman Bough (Ben Miller), accident-prone Johnny English is obviously an analog spy in a digital age. Nevertheless, he’s determined not only to discover who caused the massive data breach but also to apprehend him.
To that end, he and Bough take off in a vintage Aston-Martin for the south of France to track down glamorous Russian agent Ophelia Bulletova (Olga Kurylenko, a former Bond femme fatale) aboard a yacht called Dot Calm.
In the meantime, the Prime Minister is eagerly seeking the aid of suave American tech guru Jason Volta (Jake Lacy, channeling Elon Musk/Jeff Bezos), who is all-too-eager to become an international power-broker. Eventually, they all wind up at a G12 summit of worldleaders in a Scottish castle.
Working from William Davies’ stilted, unimaginative, utterly predictable “Skyfall”-inspired screenplay, director David Kerr totally fails to grasp the inherent humor in the James Bond parody, taking advantage of Rowan Atkinson’s adept physical comedy only when Johnny loses himself in a Virtual Reality simulation.
Displaying her usual impeccable comedic timing, Emma Thompson’s Prime Minister gets a laugh when she curtly orders her favorite drink: “Vodka tonic. No ice. No tonic.”
Early on, when there’s a brief glimpse of other ‘retired spies’ – Charles Dance, James Fox and Michael Gambon – one yearns for them to reappear to enliven the clumsy dreariness.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Johnny English Strikes Again” is a tiresome 3. Skip it!
Johnny English Strikes Again
Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Gambon, Emma Thompson
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