Review: Johnny English Reborn – 14 October 2011
Johnny English Reborn
Universal Pictures, 101 minutes
Ever since I caught wind of filming for a sequel to the brilliant 2003 comedy Johnny English, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the film’s release in cinemas. Tonight, I finally got the chance – just a week since the 2778m-long reel hit screens across the country – as I headed to ODEON Maidenhead with my friends Zac Brooke and Lorna Young.
The first thing one notices when watching Johnny English Reborn is just how much more like James Bond it is than its prequel. There’s more guns, more action (including a tremendous rooftop parkour scene similar in some ways to the one in Casino Royale), and an undoubtedly stronger plot. There’s a new car (the gorgeous DB9 has sadly been replaced by a Rolls-Royce Phantom); there’s a new mission to foil a plot to kill the Chinese Premier; and there’s a neat soundtrack that cleverly rearranges the old theme into it. There’s a new sidekick, too, and whilst it’s a shame to see Ben Miller‘s Bough character gone, Daniel Kaluuya‘s slightly more junior Agent Tucker adds a new edge.
But let this not be a film of comparisons. The film is tremendous to watch in its own right, and doesn’t require any background knowledge (in fact, the only reference to the earlier mission is the knighthood). One of my favourite scenes is where the title character (played by Rowan Atkinson) walks through the MI7 gadget-building bunker, nicknamed "the toy cupboard" by new top spy Simon Ambrose (Dominic West). The problem with this scene – as with a number of others throughout the film – was the fact that I’d already seen it. The film’s been so heavily advertised, and clips have appeared in so many television programmes, that snippets like the behind-the-scenes segment featured on Blue Peter not only gave away the look of the section, but also the way in which the fun special effects were made.
"We’d been thinking of doing a Bourne parody; you know, making the whole thing a parody of a Bourne movie, but in the end, I think the world of James Bond is a little more us."
"I had a total say in the Rolls-Royce! It was my idea to have it. I think the Aston Martin idea had been a little bit overdone. We’d had one in the first movie, and they’re always in the Bond movies… I just felt like doing something a little different. Maybe it reflects the more mature, slightly older Johnny English that we know now, but I’ve owned one so know them well and like them as cars. There’s this one aspect – the companionship – that you always get from a Rolls-Royce, and I wanted to portray that in the film."
— Rowan Atkinson, Radio 1 Newsbeat interview, 30 September 2011
My criticisms of the film are like those of Metro reviewer Anna Smith. She writes about the relentlessness of the running joke of English violently assaulting various elderly ladies, whose backs he mistakes for that of a killer cleaner. She also marks it down for the storyline and editing, but I have contrasting opinions.
There’s a number of really nice touches. Like her brief appearance in Mr Bean’s Holiday, Lily Atkinson appears momentarily in a non-speaking part during a sequence in this, though she’s not on-screen long enough for the liking of many! Another is towards the end, when a blunder with the wrong gadget actually saves English’s life.
On the whole, Johnny English Reborn was, for me, very much worth the eight-year-wait. My friends were less convinced, preferring the original for its more frequent humour (and those jokes that were in this one were a little predictable), but it deserves five stars for the mere fact that I enjoyed every minute.