In Johnny English Reborn, sequel to that forgettable James Bond parody from 2003, Rowan Atkinson reprises his role as the bumbling British super-spy. It’s been five years since he exiled himself to a monastery in Tibet, after botching up his last mission in Mozambique. When we first meet him in this new adventure, he’s busy honing his martial arts skills, which include such unorthodox exercises as holding back the pain from a kick in the groin, and dragging a large rock tied to his penis. But when the new MI7 chief (played by Gillian Anderson) learns of an attempt against the Chinese premier’s life, she summons English back and reinstates him in his job so he can help save queen and country again.

The film sees Atkinson fumble with secret gadgets, and repeat many of the same slapstick gags he delivered in his outings as Mr Bean. The only genuinely funny recurring joke in this film involves a mean, Asian assassin impersonating a cleaning lady who shows up repeatedly to take down our hero. It’s the film’s best joke, and culminates in a hilarious scene at the end of the film.

The rest is sporadically funny, but feels very familiar…like a scene in which English takes advantage of a mechanical wheelchair to dodge the secret service. Or one in which he can’t control the vertical function of an office chair while in a conference with the British PM. Or then the scene in which he applies lipstick and pretty much goes bonkers while under the influence of an unpronounceable drug.

If you enjoyed the previous film, perhaps this one’s for you. The suspense element in the plot is revealed and resolved too conveniently, and there’s very little in it for anyone seeking new and original humor. I’m going with two out of five for Johnny English Reborn. Expect to be smiling a lot, but don’t count on too many big laughs.


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