Running Time: 97 minutes approx
DVD Extras: Commentary, wheelchair chase documentary, deleted/extended scenes and gag reel
In the 50th year since James Bond first appeared on our cinema screens in it is somewhat apt Universal should release spy spoof JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN.
Following the success of DR NO (1962) the first of many parodies on the spy world came from the ‘Carry On’ crew. Released in 1964, CARRY ON SPYING starred Kenneth Williams as the agent seeking to save the world – about as far from Bond as possible! Soon after, CASINO ROYALE (1967) arrived: based loosely on Ian Fleming’s book of the same name, David Niven plays a retired Bond who returns to action to investigate the deaths and disappearance of other agents. The film is more notable for its ensemble cast than it is for its laughs, featuring Peter Sellers, Woody Allen and Orson Welles.
The most famous spy genre spoofs are the AUSTIN POWERS films (1997-2002). Loved by audiences, the Mike Myers-starring trilogy earned more than £500 million at the worldwide box office and set the standard for films of this type.
In 2003 Universal studios released JOHNNY ENGLISH a film whose main protagonists were characters created for a Barclaycard advertising campaign in the 1980s. Starring Rowan Atkinson as Richard Latham (changed to Johnny English for the film) alongside his partner Bough the adverts were a tremendous success and ran for a number of years.
Given their was almost 15 years between Latham and Bough leaving our TV screens and the production of JOHNNY ENGLISH it was with some surprise the film grossed close to £150 million worldwide. This was, one suspects, largely due to the family friendly feel of the movie in contrast to the at times lewd escapades of AUSTIN POWERS.
As with any successful film a sequel is to be expected. However it took 8 years for Rowan Atkinson to put on his suit and grab his gun again for JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN.
This time around our hero is in Tibet learning martial arts after his dismissal from MI7 following a failed mission in Mozambique years previously. Afforded the chance of redemption, English is sent by MI7 to abort the assassination attempt on the Chinese Premier. Helped along the way by Gillian Anderson as ‘Pegasus’, head of MI7, Dominic West as fellow agent ‘Simon Ambrose’ and Rosamund Pike, who provides the eye candy and love interest as ‘Kate Summers’ a behavioural psychologist at MI7.
JOHNNY ENGLISH (2003) was a solid enjoyable romp through moderate action set pieces and physical comedy, and whilst it may not have broken any new ground entertained. Therefore it was with mild optimism I approached the sequel. As a spy film it works. It has all the elements that are needed with an agent seeking redemption, an assassination that needs to be stopped and some great locations. Sadly the ingredient missing is laughter. The comic highlight is supplied by a 3-minute cameo by Tim McInnerny (thank you, Darling) who provides more laughter, as the accident-prone weapons inventor Patch Quartermain, than the rest of the cast combined.
Having said this, the main characters are likeable, in particular Daniel Kaluuya as Agent Tucker acting as this film’s Bough. Rowan Atkinson does his best with the tepid script and the rest of the supporting cast look like they’re having fun but can’t quite lift the film above mediocrity or to the levels of the Austin Powers franchise.
Extras: The Gag Reel is quite amusing, whilst the featurette on the film’s Wheelchair chase is too serious given the subject matter. There’s also a feature commentary and some deleted/extended scenes that show nothing to warrant their inclusion.