The first Johnny English spy spoof came out in 2003. The spy parts were not exciting enough and the comedy parts were not funny enough to make material that has been done by everyone from James Coburn and Dean Martin to Mike Meyers and Jackie Chan seem fresh. And yet, he’s back — the movie no one much liked has a sequel no one asked for. There’s just one reason: people who do not speak English loved it. The original made a ton of money in countries where audiences could enjoy the pratfalls and ignore everything else. And so, passing through quickly on its way to being dubbed for international release, we have “Johnny English Reborn.”
Rowan Atkinson is best in small doses. Even at under two hours, this goes on much too long as it appears to go down a check-list of spy movie clichés, only to deploy jokes that are almost as well-worn. There is one great Parkour chase scene and a couple of genuinely funny moments but it drags on with Atkinson doing the same shtick over and over — the disconnect between his assessment of his capability (high) and his actual capability (low). And lots of crotch hits.
Someone has certainly watched a great many spy movies and so the settings replicate Bond staples like the snowy retreat, the men’s room, the secret headquarters, and the ashram. But like the first one, most of the action isn’t exciting and most of the jokes are not funny. Perhaps the dubbed version is better.
Parents should know that this film has action-style violence with chases and explosions, some comic peril but characters are killed, with crude schoolyard language, drinking, a skimpy bikini and a non-explicit romantic situation.
Family discussion: What makes Johnny so confident? What does he do best? Which of his gadgets would you like to have?
If you like this, try: “Get Smart” and “Spy Kids”