In ‘Johnny English Reborn,’ Rowan Atkinson stars as a secret agent with a dash of Mike Myers’ ’60s-era hero Austin Powers. Like Powers, English is an awkward secret agent trying to prevent a supervillian from completing a dastardly plot.
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Atkinson, best-known for his role as Mr. Bean, is a fine comic actor given some some strong material here. As the story begins, English spends his days meditating in the mountains of Tibet with a group of monks. He’s overwhelmed by the rigorous training, and a few short, clever sequences show how he struggles to complete his assignments.
Eventually, the agent is brought back into service and asked to take on a secret new mission for his intelligence agency, now known as “Toshiba British Intelligence.” The assignment: stop the assassination of the Chinese premier. Working under the watchful eye of Pamela (Gillian Anderson), the head of special unit MI-7, Johnny must prevent the murder from taking place.
The PG-rated ‘Johnny English Reborn’ is a fun, family-friendly comedy that borrows liberally from both the ‘Powers’ franchise and Jim Varney’s ‘Ernest’ features. ‘Reborn’ was written by William Davies (‘How to Train Your Dragon’) and Hamish McColl (‘Mr. Bean’s Vacation’) and includes a lot of silly slapstick. However, Atkinson makes most of the jokes work through his humorous facial expressions and good comic timing.
‘Reborn’ also takes clever aim at spoofing the spy genre, particularly the Bond features. Have you ever wondered why secret agents following their opponents on rooftop chases don’t find more convenient methods of transportation? Well, English must have wondered that too because there is a great chase scene where only one of the two characters is running, and it isn’t English. It’s that type of droll comedy that makes ‘Johnny English Reborn’ worthy of a trip to the multiplex.
The original ‘English’ was released nearly a decade ago in 2003. I didn’t remember it arriving in theaters, but I was pleasantly surprised when I finally caught up with it. Neither film pretends to be as outrageous as ‘Bridemaids’ or ‘The Hangover.’ They don’t have to be. They are just two low-key comedies trying to appeal to a broad demographic including families looking for a few laughs. Both films succeed, but the sequel is an improvement over the original, which had a few too many potty jokes for my enjoyment.
The brand of family-friendly humor seen in the ‘Johnny English’ films is often missing in theaters today. Children and parents alike will enjoy the ‘Johnny English’ series thanks, in large part, to Atkinson. If you’re looking for the best comedy of the year, ‘English’ isn’t it. But if you want enjoyable time in the theater laughing with your family, it would be a fine choice.