Johnny English Reborn (2011)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Johnny English Reborn</strong> (2011)

(In theaters, October 2011) Given how infrequently I have thought of the original Johnny English since its release in 2003, it’s safe to say that I wasn’t demanding a sequel nor expecting too much of it.  Unsurprisingly, this kind of low-expectations brinksmanship actually works in Johnny English Reborn’s favour, as the film is occasionally wittier and funnier than expected.  Part of what works is that this time around, English isn’t always a bumbling idiot: In-between the goofs and the pratfalls are flashes of competence and wit.  The best in-story example comes during a foot chase, in which a parkour expert is defeated by an exasperated protagonist as he goes around obstacles, opens doors and takes an elevator to catch his opponent.  At other times, English’s sidekick isn’t the kind of super-qualified overachiever that other bumbling comedy spies often get saddled with; we also get a car chase parody featuring a tricked-out wheelchair. That’s the kind of James Bond satire anyone could enjoy.  Unfortunately, they come sandwiched between moments seemingly designed for kids and other undemanding audiences: Johnny English Reborn goes broad and wide in its mugging for laughs, going from Rowan Atkinson’s Blackadderesque suave goatee to the clean-shaven buffoonery of Mr. Bean far too quickly.  The romance is barely sketched, and while former Bond-girl Rosamund Pike is cute enough, I would have enjoyed seeing Natalie Imbruglia again.  Still, Atkinson makes limp slapstick fly better than anyone else, and the film isn’t without a few scattered grins.  Being better than the original isn’t much, but it’s enough to raise the film into average mediocrity, albeit friendly to older kids.  Stay for the credits, though: Johnny English Reborn concludes with an absolutely charming comedy sequence in which Atkinson cooks in-sync with The Halls of the Mountain Kings: It’s the film’s finest moment.

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