Johnny English Strikes Again, but does it hit the mark?

Johnny English strikes again in the third film in the series, Johnny English Strikes Again. That opening sentence is almost as clumsy as our beloved Mr Bean come hapless spy English, Johnny English.

The scene is set in minutes. All British MI6 agents identities have been compromised via a cyber attack. Britain is under threat but with no secret service remaining, the retired spies must be restored to help solve the case and take down this pesky hacker. After an incident with a grenade pen, Johnny English reigns supreme and is selected as the man for the job. He’s entering a new digital world of devices, gobbledygook and hybrid cars and he’s stumbling all the way through it. The secret service is now cloaked in wavers and health and safety red tape but that doesn’t stop English from getting his Aston Martin.

If you didn’t like the previous English films there’s no chance of him redeeming himself here. However, if you’re a Rowan Atkinson fan, a Mr Bean fan and even a classic Bond fan then you might find something to enjoy.

The cast is brilliant, Emma Thompson shines as a desperate PM trying to not only save the country but also create a new legacy. Jack Lacy plays Jason the Zuckerberg-Musk-esq tech billionaire brilliantly bringing charm and perfectly hammed up villainous turns to his screen time. Trusty loyal sidekick Bough, played by Ben Miller, is as always a charming unassuming ‘brains’ behind the due. And, the gorgeous Olga Kurylenko is Ophelia, the perfect spy love interest and as always there’s plenty more than meets the eye when it comes to her talents.

A running joke throughout is English’s ‘fish out of water’ when encountering any ‘new tech’. Occasionally it works, but mostly it just feels too obvious.  I don’t think anyone is going to do the Spy in the wrong era as well as Austin Powers EVER. Obviously, Atkinson’s rubber-faced antics are used often and we know he can pull off great physical comedy (I’m a huge Mr Bean fan). There’s no doubting his talent, and this character does bring a smile to my face, but there’s just not enough to work with here.

Overall, the film is a little tired – there’s not sufficient material to stretch to a feature. That said, there are probably a few key sequences that did raise evoke some chuckles and raise the enjoyment level: the epic dance/assassination attempt, under the influence driving and a virtual reality immersive experience which goes off-piste. However, for the majority of the film you can see any jokes or set-up coming so far off you are just counting the minutes for them to get to the joke already!

Johnny English has many accidental successes, and maybe this third film in the franchise will be another. In parts, it’s a great family film full of silliness, slapstick and slow-moving knights but unfortunately, it just feels that it’s really time for this spy to hang his gadgets.

Johnny English is out in NZ cinemas from 20 September.

Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar.

2 and a half stars

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