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European films

Johnny English Strikes Again film review: Rowan Atkinson’s bumbling spy returns for uninspired third outing

The latest harmless James Bond parody, following the 2003 original and its 2011 sequel Johnny English Reborn, sees Atkinson’s inept secret agent wreak more havoc, but dated format and his usual slapstick don’t entertain

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 September, 2018, 12:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 September, 2018, 12:01pm

2/5 stars

Rowan Atkinson’s bumbling spy returns for this proudly old-fashioned yet only very mildly diverting third outing. Years may have passed since the 2003 original and its 2011 sequel Johnny English Reborn, but this latest slice of harmless James Bond parody still plays like it’s the early 2000s, with the inept secret agent battling commonplace digital technologies, and his own incompetence, for our giggles.

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Long after he has retired from MI7 duties and become a geography teacher (to scout new espionage talent, so he claims), Johnny English (Atkinson) is summoned back to help catch a master hacker when the first of several waves of cyber-attacks thoroughly compromises the British secret service’s database – this despite English not even being willing to use a smartphone.

The mission reunites him with assistant Bough (Ben Miller) and sends him to the south of France, where he crosses paths with a luxury yacht occupant (former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko) who is obviously – albeit not to English – a foreign spy. Meanwhile, the prime minister (Emma Thompson) is so enamoured with an American tech tycoon (Jake Lacey) that she is willing to cede control.

While Atkinson’s slapstick routines have an undeniably lasting appeal to them, the Johnny English franchise had gone stale even before witty satires such as Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) and Spy (2015) reinvigorated the genre. Johnny English Strikes Again, to its credit, marches on like none of those has ever existed.

Whether English is wreaking havoc during his first brush with virtual reality or accidentally setting off a missile, there is an innocent quality to his movie that feels decidedly at odds with modern tastes. And if Johnny English Strikes Again somehow replicates the box office heroics of its two predecessors, the friendly spy may just return to cause further inconveniences.

Johnny English Strikes Again opens on September 20

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