Sunday, October 14, 2018

Johnny English Strikes Again – analogue battling digital for supremacy in this flimsy but funny spy spoof

An information security breach has resulted in the identities of all of the UK’s spies being compromised. Retired assets are recalled to service, but soon only the bumbling but well-meaning Johnny English is still available to investigate the leak and protect his country.

To be honest, 88 minutes of full-on Mr Bean would have been tiresome. But Rowan Atkinson’s hapless hero is gentle and endearing in Johnny English Strikes Again.

The storyline allows the unconventional agent to escape from his new job in teaching to travel undercover across Europe with his smarter sidekick Bough (Ben Miller) and a suitably analogue set of spyware to keep one step ahead of the digital terrorism at loose. Essentially the film is a series of enjoyable set pieces threaded together with William Davies’ plot. Perhaps the most memorable episode reveals the perils of VR.

Atkinson has lost none of his charm. The facial expressions, hand gestures, speech patterns and comic timing are still immaculate. Miller’s presence gently amplifies the great master’s work while adding his own raised eyebrows to scenes.

With Johnny English Strikes Again, director David Kerr has essentially created the comedy film that Kingsman: The Golden Circle should have aspired to be. While it retains some misogyny – a female Prime Minister, not unlike Theresa May played by Emma Thompson, uses her wiles to ensnare a possible tech saviour – and a tendency to linger on plunging necklines, there’s none of the needless vulgarity of the Savile Row spy franchise.

To complete the flimsy yet funny spoof, throw in in some Anglo-Russian cooperation, Bond-veteran Olga Kurylenko, a female submarine commander, and an inconspicuous Aston Martin. Like it’s hero, Johnny English Strikes Again is mostly harmless, predictable family fun.

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