Thursday, 24 January 2019

Johnny English - Strikes Again ★★★☆☆

The third film in the franchise, ‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ is now out on DVD and Blu-Ray. Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) isn’t a secret agent anymore, now spending his days as a Geography teacher at a private school, mostly teaching the kids Geography but also teaching them survival skills off the record. This all has to be put on hold as he gets called back into MI7 – the UK is under threat from hackers causing absolute chaos round the country, and the identities of all secret agents have been made public. The Prime Minister (Emma Thompson) needs to pull someone out of retirement who won’t be known, so hires English, along with former sidekick Bough (Ben Miller), to find out who the hackers are and put a stop to them. Meanwhile, she gets to work with upping security by hiring American tech guru and billionaire Jason Volta (Jake Lacy) to solve all of Britain’s problems.

It’s an interesting storyline and a good opportunity for us in the UK to laugh at ourselves and our incompetency (Thompson’s role was somewhat echoing of Theresa May and the whole Brexit palaver), though it certainly had more potential than what we get – it’s funny in parts, and shows a generous amount of slapstick like the previous films, but this time it’s not quite so clever, and there aren’t so many laughs to go round. I chuckled quite a few times at the various scenes that played out, though there was only one that really made me laugh out loud, and if that scene hadn’t been included I wouldn’t have felt anywhere near as positive about the film in general (it’s the VR scene, in case you were wondering). 

It’s no fault of Atkinson or Miller, who have great chemistry and try their best, but they just aren’t utilised like they could be – unlike Atkinson’s Bean persona, Johnny English isn’t given as much to work with. The other actors are all good as well – Lacy especially as the sinister Volta who will most likely remind you of a certain public figure – but the predictable storyline detracts from this. It felt to me like it’s aimed at a slightly different audience this time round, focusing on younger viewers but forgetting to add a more adult layer to keep all viewers happy.

I think that the franchise needs to either put the lid on the box or come up with something new – since the very first ‘Johnny English’ movie, the joke has always been centred around English being a vastly incompetent character (with no idea that he is) who someone always manages to win a situation through pure luck. It does work but it gets old after a while, and I think the audience needs something a bit different. The film was inventive enough in its scenarios, but the repetitiveness of that one gag made it feel like we were watching the same scene again and again, just in different environments.  It’s good for fans of slapstick comedy and offers a few laughs, but for those wanting something a bit more from a comedy film, ‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ might not be what you’re looking for. 

Hannah Read

Johnny English at CeX

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