04th Jan2019

‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Rowan Atkinson, Ben Miller, Olga Kurylenko, Emma Thompson, Kevin Eldon, Adam James, Noah Spiers, Kendra Mei, Alfie Kennedy, Michael Gambon, Adam Greaves-Neal, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Charles Dance, Edward Fox, Miranda Hennessy | Written by William Davies | Directed by David Kerr

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Rowan Atkinson returns as the titular character of now-retired Johnny English in Johnny English Strikes Again, the latest and hopefully final installment as the quirky, farcical British spy in what has bizarrely become a trilogy of films. Johnny English Strikes Again is the typical venture we’ve all come to know and suspect. The pinnacle of juvenile comedy. An exact carbon copy of each installment before it. Atkinson’s latest does so little to entertain or excite, yet ironically and poetically, does equally as much in terms of effort to stop it becoming a definitive disaster.

To suggest that Johnny English Strikes Again is “funny” would be to fall into a rabbit hole the explores the definition of the world itself. In short – it’s not. Perhaps that sounds rather rudimentary and absolute and you wouldn’t be wrong. After having to sit through this sequel and its two predecessors, you’ll begin to question the parameters of entertainment. Every joke is waived to another meaningless moment that focuses on poorly constructed and slack physical comedy. Gone is the expressive bravado of Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton in outlandish but ultimately endearing death-defying acts of ironic disposition of the utmost safety. Here the audience is ultimately left with confounded sequences of modern pop culture references and overly pedantic and flat slapstick indulgence from writer series veteran William Davies.

The irony of such a picture and what thankfully stops it from becoming a complete and utter waste of time is the efficiency in a well-crafted production. Director David Kerr in his directorial debut, to his credit, puts little wrong in terms of direction and ultimately creates a final product that satisfies the simplistic notion of visual and phonetics in a pleasant enough manner. A film of this calibre only needs to suffice with competent film making of which the editing and cinematography from Mark Everson and Florian Hoffmeister, respectively, do a satisfactory job within that context. Nothing goes above and beyond or transcends the medium but it steadies a ship that rocks sheepishly on the waves.

Looking back at the initial spoof installment that started it all in 2003, it’s somewhat a surprise and quite frankly a miracle that audiences have been in a position to have been graced, or traumatised depending on your disposition, with over five hours of Johnny English in a trilogy of films. A delayed eight-year gap brought us an underwhelming sequel in Johnny English Reborn and a seven-year wait for the latest and final installment in Johnny English Strikes Again. However, what makes the release of each film the more peculiar is the slow but sure inevitable demise of gross. The initial first installment in 2003 managed a fairly low but acceptable earning of $28,082,366. It would seem the penultimate sequel would put a stop to proceedings earning a disastrous $8,305,970… But fear not, Universal had the truly extraordinary insight to greenlight a second sequel in Johnny English Strikes Again, earning an astonishing low with an estimated gross of just $4,285,545.

It’s truly outrageous in an era of lacking originality that a major studio would greenlight a project so out of touch and ever so weak in terms of box office strength.

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