Johnny English Strikes Again (2 stars)

Johnny English Strikes Again

The third entry in Rowan Atkinson's spy spoof franchise fails to deliver on laughs

Rowan Atkinson returns as bumbling spy Johnny English for the second sequel in the Bond parodying franchise that began life as a spin-off from a series of credit card commercials. Unfortunately, like its predecessor (2011's Johnny English Reborn, following the 2003 original), it's a frustratingly lacklustre entry.

The plot sees a retired English called back into action after a cyber attack (points for topicality) reveals the identities of all MI7's secret agents. Aided by his loyal assistant Bough (Ben Miller), English sets out to investigate and soon tangles with slinky Russian spy Ophelia Bulletova (Olga Kurylenko). Meanwhile, a beleaguered Prime Minister (Emma Thompson) enlists billionaire tech genius Jason Volta (Jake Lacey) to solve her cyber-attack issues, unaware that he has a sinister agenda.

At the very least the cast are game: Atkinson puts his rubbery physicality through its usual paces, while Thompson is amusingly frazzled as the PM – she's clearly had to be forcibly restrained from going full Theresa May, but she does get to call the national press 'a tsunami of tosspots'. Kurylenko, too, puts in more effort than the film deserves, even if she does occasionally appear to be stifling a look that says, 'So it's come to this...'

The plot is passable for a film of this nature, yet the dialogue lacks snap, with the script actively swerving several opportunities for satire. However, the biggest problem is the direction: David Kerr is a veteran of TV comedy (Inside No 9, Fresh Meat), but his sense of comic timing seems to have deserted him. The ingredients are frequently there for some great gags (an exoskeleton, magnetic boots, a VR headset, etc), but the execution is constantly bungled, and further undermined by some atrocious editing. The result is a painful lack of laughs, made all the more infuriating because it's easy to see how each scene could have been funnier.

General release from Fri 5 Oct.

Johnny English Strikes Again

  • 2 stars
  • 2018
  • UK / France
  • 1h 28min
  • PG
  • Directed by: David Kerr
  • Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Olga Kurylenko, Ben Miller, Emma Thompson
  • UK release: 5 October 2018

Johnny English (Atkinson) is called back into action after a cyberattack reveals the identities of British secret agents. The cast are game, but the dialogue lacks snap and the direction and editing are atrocious. The lack of laughs are all the more infuriating because it’s easy to see how it could have been funnier.

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