Johnny English Strikes Again was directed by David Kerr and is the third installation of a spy/comedy franchise, which I genuinely thought went defunct after its first film. Rowan Atkinson reprises his role as Johnny English, a clumsy & goofy MI6 agent who is now tasked with catching a hacker responsible for breaking into the UK government database and exposing the identities of active undercover agents. English links up with his old right-hand man “Bough” (Ben Miller), and encounters some mysterious personalities along the way.
Johnny English will always have a special place in my heart because it was a film that I grew up with. I can recall pages of dialogue from that movie. I admired Johnny English because of its simplicity, good laughs and the comedic vibe that Atkinson brought to the screen. This film had none of that. Its plot was unnecessarily bloated and had no real basis in reality. The plot was about using data as an asset to manipulate global leaders and somehow shut down the entire internet. I hate it when franchises think they have to up the stakes with every subsequent installment to keep audiences interested – Simplicity has its own beauty.
The comedic chops of Johnny English Strikes Again were also very limited in their effectiveness and originality. Most of the jokes were reiterations of skits on Mr. Bean. The film also relied too much on the “brand” of Rowan Atkinson without really giving him any good material to work with. Englishs’ chemistry with Bough was also under-utilized. The two shared a good bond in the first movie, so it was disappointing to see that they weren’t able to re-create it here. I think this was because the two spent more time apart than together. The antagonist was also super cheesy and was played by C-grade actor from “The Office” – his motivation was unclear and his only character trait was that he was evil.
Another thing that bothered me about this movie was its excessive use of gadgets. Over the 90 minute runtime, I must’ve seen English utilize at least two dozen of them. This was never something I took notice in the first film, so I was scratching my head to justify why the writers chose to do this. The gadgets really didn’t make the film more interesting and didn’t fit the style of this franchise. The characters’ excessive reliance on these gadgets degraded their own importance in the movie.
In summary, whether you are familiar with the Johnny English franchise or not, you shouldn’t watch this movie for all the reasons mentioned above. Johnny English Strikes Again felt like a film made by a committee, rather than a passionate filmmaker. Everything felt off – from its choppy editing, to its unrealistic plot, to its poor comedic timing. The only real positive thing I can say about this movie is that it was nice to see Rowan Atkinson on screen again.