Despite being incredibly vain, incompetent, and inexplicably conceited, Johnny English – the not-so-suave secret agent at the centre of Johnny English Strikes Again – manages to somehow be disarmingly likable. And it all boils down to Rowan Atkinson and the fact that, even at 63 years of age, he possesses a comedic mastery that’s often untouched.
The film surrounding his rubbery physicality doesn’t match his talent, but he gives it a good go in this third outing that will most likely serve as English’s swan song; there’s only so many adventures of incompetency leading to accidentally saving the day that can be told before it becomes stale. 7 years after the surprisingly robust Johnny English Reborn, itself a sequel to 2003’s Johnny English, Johnny English Strikes Again sees the titular secret agent now retired and passing on his “knowledge” of the industry to a group of eager school students who evidently adore his unconventional methods of teaching.
When a security breach infiltrates MI7 and all the agents on file have their identities leaked, the Iron Lady-esque Prime Minister (Emma Thompson), sweating that this is all taking place prior to a summit meeting, commands that an older agent whose identity is still concealed be brought back – enter Johnny English. Just how and why English is their only option comes about in an amusing sequence where he accidentally immobilizes his fellow agents (including Charles Dance and Michael Gambon), and from there it’s rejecting new age technology and preaching an old fashioned mentality (English is adverse to smart cars and iPhones due to how easily they can be tracked) as he and trusty sidekick Bough (Ben Miller) head off to various exotic European locales to track the identity of the hacker.
In adhering to the old fashioned, so too does the film’s temperament and depending how willing you are to surrender to its inoffensive nature, Johnny English Strikes Again will either bore you with the expected or charm you with its simplicity. The identity of the hacker is hardly a surprise, Olga Kurylenko’s secret agent doesn’t seem entirely enthused to be there, and just as many of the jokes miss as they do hit, but the simplest twitch of Atkinson’s eye, the lightest sound of his giddy inflection, or the enthusiastic “dad dancing” he thrusts onto the audience can’t help but evoke an amusement that makes the film far more enjoyable than it deserves to be.
Running a brisk pace to ensure it never overstays its welcome and refreshingly avoiding sleaze or nastiness to earn a laugh, Johnny English Strikes Again should appeal to the older generation fond of uncomplicated comedy and, perhaps, introduce younger crowds to the effects of humour that doesn’t rely on unnecessary crudeness to land a giggle.