Johnny English Strikes Again Review: An okayish martini - shaken, stirred but stale
While Atkinson tries his best to elicit consistent laughter, the film only manages to bring out a wry smile at best
Spy thriller is a genre that has seen its highs and lows in every other cinema industry. Famous among them is the James Bond series that has not only spawned a long list of imitators but also has given birth to the spy parody genre, made famous by Mike Myers' Austin Powers franchise.
Another such act is Rowan Atkinson's Johnny English, and he returns after a seven-year exile with Johnny English Strikes Again, the third film in the franchise. This time, he has an actual Bond girl, Olga Kurylenko, by his side.
Director: David Kerr
Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Ben Miller, Olga Kurylenko, Jake Lacy, and Emma Thompson
A spy parody never quite has the most original of stories, and is more often a well-constructed series of gags that should ideally tickle the living daylights out of your funny bone. However, the laughs only come in spurts.
When we first got acquainted with the extremely self-assured MI7 detective in 2003, he was a bumbling wreck who unfortunately thought highly of himself despite overwhelming evidence pointing at the opposite. It hasn't changed in the 2018 version where Atkinson plays English without missing a single beat.
But, there is a sense of deja vu and lazy writing when just like the earlier two films, English once again gets disgraced midway for almost the same reasons, and later gets motivated by either his partner or love interest and saves the day.
As always, English has a smarter sidekick, Angus Bough (an effective Ben Miller who returns to the franchise), whose unflinching admiration of his senior agent is reminiscent of the relationship shared by Steve Martin's Jacques Clouseau and Jean Reno's Gilbert Ponton, or closer home, Janagaraj and RS Shivaji in Aboorva Sagodharargal.
The film majorly banks on the funny gags that Atkinson has built a career on, with his act as Mr Bean. While the ones that work include English faking a French accent and later burning down a restaurant, and the spy's general isolation from technological advancements that gives rise to a couple of hilarious gags, including the scene-of-the-film where English meets Virtual Reality, most of the others fail to hit the sweet spot.
Since the gags don't work effectively, the focus moves to the writing by William Davies, which acts as a major dampener. For instance, if the first part is about how the lack of other agents forces the British Intelligence to avail the services of Johnny English, the third part doesn't think of any other way to do the same. Here, English and Bough join hands to bring down a technological wizard Jason Volta (read Elon Musk) who looks to take over the world by owning the internet and hence, the various countries. And somewhere in this David Kerr-directed film, there is Emma Thompson as the British Prime Minister and she has too much fun playing to the gallery despite no redeeming characteristic to her role.
While it is true that the Johnny English franchise was never about the intricate plot but about Atkinson's onscreen antics, it is only so far that acting can take you in the absence of an engaging plot.
Johnny English Strikes Again is the type of film that falls under the category of Sirippoli films in Tamil Cinema: It works as standalone funny scenes, but as a complete film, it isn't half as exciting as what it would have been on paper. While Atkinson tries his best to elicit never-ending laughs as Johnny English, the film only manages to bring out a wry smile at best.