I was really looking forward to seeing Johnny English Reborn. I love Rowan Atkinson and I was very much in the mood to watch a light-hearted – even slapstick – comedy movie. The trailer for JE:R was fantastic and promised that it would be the perfect movie for me. But did it live up to my expectations?
The answer, sadly, is no. JE:R suffers from a number of problems that stop it from being the top-class parody I’d hoped it would be. It’s not dreadful but it isn’t great either; it’s merely “ok”.
The main problem with the movie is that it can’t quite make up its mind what its target audience is. It’s a PG movie, and this shows in a lot of instances: many of the jokes are really simplistic – they’re childish “man-sits-on-chair-but-the-chair-isn’t-there” gags that are so obvious and overused that they’re just not very funny unless you’re under 10 years old. The absolutely hilarious slapstick of the original Mr. Bean episodes worked because every blunder he made was relevant and they all added up to believably put Bean into completely ridiculous situations. In JE:R, however, there are a lot of boring stand-alone jokes that are only put in to please kids.
Completely contradicting this kid-focussed approach, however, is a really out of context seduction scene where a woman strips into a bikini to entice Johnny English. Why was this put into a PG movie? A faux-information leak could have tricked him just as effectively. The producers seem to be trying to please both adults and children with this movie – but they don’t succeed. Their efforts only serve to create scenes that will be jarring for either group; the overt “sexiness” of the aforementioned scene in particular makes what should be a good movie for kids rather inappropriate.
This being said, there are a few genuine gems of hilarity to be found sprinkled throughout the movie. Three scenes which stood out for me as being particularly funny involved an alarm, a rash of cases of mistaken identity, and a not-so-epic chase on foot. These scenes worked very well and they do manage to save the movie from total failure. It’s a pity that more effort wasn’t put into making more scenes like these; the rest of the movie just isn’t that funny and ends up feeling like filler.
Another problem with the movie is that its principle character – namely, Johnny English – simply isn’t very interesting. Intended to be a parody of James Bond, English falls flat. His forays into the realm of gadgetry and flirtation work well; English acts like Bond – it’s the situations which highlight the inherent ridiculousness. A lot what English does, however, is done just because he’s stupid. There’s a big difference between a character doing something silly by accident and doing something stupid just because they’re stupid; it’s funny and engaging when English mixes up two old ladies’ identities, it’s not when he sits on a cat.
The acting in the movie, all things considered, is actually pretty good; the actors do their best with a poor script. Atkinson, when allowed to shine, is fantastic and most of the other actors do a good job too (Pegasus excluded) – so far as their weak characters allow them to. Special effects and action sequences are fine but the direction lacks flair.
If you want to see Atkinson in action and are thinking of going to see Johnny English Reborn, I highly recommend that you re-watch Mr. Bean instead. This movie isn’t worth going out of your way to see; if you’re insistent, just watch the trailer instead.