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Johnny English Reborn

2011 | 102 min | PG | 2.39:1

Johnny English Reborn


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1 user review

Movie appeal




Theatrical release date

 21 October, 2011
 07 October, 2011

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Johnny English Reborn Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, October 21, 2011

The idea of a sequel to the 2003 film “Johnny English” seems absurd, but the movie proved itself to be unexpectedly popular around the globe. Ditching his world-famous Mr. Bean character to create a James Bond parody, star Rowan Atkinson (who actually appeared in a Bond adventure) found another character worthy of his rubbery appeal, making light of suave spies and the action genre in his own floppy way. “Johnny English Reborn” brings back the character for another round of slipping and spying, but not much else has changed since the release of the original picture. “Reborn” is more of a spiritual title. Everything else in this silly but draggy comedy is pure rehash.

Spending the last five years inside a Tibetan monastery exploring the loss of his mettle, Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) has been called back into duty by MI7 director Pamela (Gillian Anderson) to help locate a contact (Richard Schiff) in China in possession of critical information. Traveling overseas, English and partner Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya) stumble upon a larger assassination plot run by terrorist organization Vortex. Returning home to report his findings, English learns he’s been framed for numerous crimes, forcing the superspy into hiding, turning to friend Simon (Dominic Cooper) and analyst Kate (Rosamund Pike) for help. With his own government after him, it’s up to English and his special brand of intelligence work to help deduce the true conspirator, establish peace, and restore honor to his legendary reputation.

I wasn’t a huge admirer of “Johnny English” in 2003, but any opportunity to tickle the rigid conventions of the Bond franchise is welcome. “Reborn” doesn’t waste much time getting back into the thick of things, opening with a brief prologue observing English inside his monastery home, learning how to control his splintered spirit after a botched mission in Mozambique pushed him out of the spying game for good. Here, the comedic tone is solidified: various silly faces are made, English’s less-than-crack timing is off, and testicles are hardened for future battles. Refreshingly, director Oliver Parker (“An Ideal Husband”) doesn’t attempt to shield the true nature of the material, diving into the goofy antics immediately. “Reborn” cuts right to the chase in terms of Johnny English buffoonery.

For the first half, “Reborn” enjoys a swift pace and consistent flow of monkey business, following the titular character as he reenters the MI7 world he left behind, greeting old friends and new adversaries, all the while working a routine of utter incompetence mixed with flashes of brilliant timing, allowing the spy to retain his legend status. The script provides a stream of misadventures, including one excursion to Macau where English first learns about Vortex’s evil plans, soon battling a parkour-trained assassin with his own sense of street intelligence -- a truly inspired chase sequence that has some fun with the trendy movement technique, zapping its mystique. There are also numerous scenes of English attempting to maintain his dignity while enduring various humiliations. It’s a standard parade of mix-ups and pratfalls, but Atkinson plays everything with a righteous commitment, draining the last drop of ridiculous business out of every shot.

In the opening 45 minutes, “Reborn” finds a fresher, more endearingly stupid ambiance than the first picture, having a blast toying with characters and letting Atkinson play with his props. Once the Vortex plot is established, the movie falls flat in a hurry, suddenly concerned with story logic and character arcs, dropping a swift pace to labor over villainous details and acts of redemption I sincerely doubt few will openly care about. “Reborn” gradually grows labored and unfunny, not due to dud gags (though there are plenty of them to go around), but lack of comedic interest, dialing down the clowning to play up the superspy adventure, which leads to a snowy Switzerland finale too dependent on explosions and climaxes to make a blockbuster impression.

The feature ends up a mixed bag, opening strongly with clever interactions, only to be mummified by an overly concerned plot. I’d rather have Atkinson reacting spastically to insanity than trying to keep a tepid story from derailing, but this odd sequel doesn’t agree. Much like the original picture, “Johnny English Reborn” fumbles the potential of the idea. Instead of making fun of James Bond, this series would rather be James Bond at times, stopping only occasionally to fall flat on its face.

Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Rosamund Pike, Dominic West, Gillian Anderson, Daniel Kaluuya, Richard Schiff
Director: Oliver Parker

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