Rowan Atkinson is a comedy genius. The comedy legend is behind the classic comedy show Black Adder. Of course, Atkinson is known as his immortal man-child Mr. Bean. However, Atkinson has a third comic persona which has proved to be enduring with the bumbling superspy Johnny English, and the character returns for a third installment in the action-comedy franchise with Johnny English Strikes Again. Now available on Blu-ray and Digital HD from Universal Picture Home Entertainment, Johnny English Strikes Again isn’t Rowan Atkinson’s funniest work by a long shot, but the comedy legend is able to overcome a shabby script with his unique physical comedy skills and commitment to intricate gags.
Johnny English (Atkinson) has left behind the spy game and has moved on to teaching at a boarding school outside of London. Once MI7 is hit with a cyber attack compromising the security of every agent in the field, the Prime Minister (Emma Thompson) asks that old agents be recruited to battle this new mysterious threat. Johnny English returns to duty with his trusty sidekick Bough (Ben Miller). Collecting information in the south of France, Johnny and Bough encounter the mysterious Ophelia Bhuletova (Olga Kurylenko) who is working for the tech mogul Jason Volta (Jake Lacy). When facing a new digital threat, the world needs an analog secret agent.
The script for Johnny English Strikes Again by William Davies is the weakest aspect of the film. The plotting is rote and obvious, and there’s little commentary within the film on the genre that it’s spoofing. And yet the film is able to work because of the steady, journeyman direction of David Kerr and hijinks of Atkinson’s bumbling spy. Atkinson as English can commit to a bit and wring it out for as many laughs as possible. One particular scene of Johnny English diving into the world of virtual reality is an absolute gut-buster that continually escalates in insanity. There is a flip side as sometimes Atkinson let a gag draw on for far too long, leading to diminishing returns for each pratfall and mix up.
The supporting cast of Johnny English Strikes Again back up their lead admirably. Ben Miller is sturdy as the straight man to English’s comic ineptitude. Former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko transposes his exotic allure to the spoof seamlessly. Though presented an underwritten character, Jake Lacy does his best as the nefarious tech giant. Even when the script puts characters in very predictable scenarios, it’s the ability of the cast to keep a straight face in the midst of the comedic chaos.
Johnny English Strikes Back doesn’t aim high. It’s a movie content to stay in its lane. That sometimes works against it as it often seem like the film lacks ambition. But when Atkinson ramps up the insanity and gives his all to the craziness of the bits the movie delivers laughs. What can I say? I’m a sucker for Rowan Atkinson dedicating himself to outlandish physical comedy bits, and he does plenty of that in the espionage lunacy of Johnny English Strikes Again.
Johnny English Strikes Again
For his third turn as bumbling superspy Johnny English, Rowan Atkinson overcomes a weak script with his ability to fully commit to hilarious physical comedy gags in Johnny English Strikes Again.