Rowan Atkinson gets another chance to feature a disgraced once top MI-7 top spy's buffoonery in a zany, but uneven diversion that ably moves from locations like Hong Kong and the French Alps.
In Johnny English Reborn, Atkinson's always energetic eponymous character has to get back in good graces by having to save the world. Johnny's downfall in Mozambique led to the honing of skills in a remote part of Himalaya.
Now, in its lazy manner of send-up to keep family audiences chuckling, the highly unorthodox dim, childlike agent is remanded back into service by his M-like boss Pegasus (Gillian Anderson). He'll have to deal with a web of conspiracy between agencies with the newest gadgets after an attempt on the life of China's premier. There'll be a dogged hit man of a cleaner (Pik-Sen Lim) who will be in Johnny's precarious path.
Of course, as in Mr. Bean's Holiday the protagonist finds a way to make matters worse for himself before boldly trying his best at a mountainous lair. All the while, silliness abounds within deadpan sequences, obviously hampering any potential suspense. With all the alluring women and double-crossing, there is more than an allusion to the recent cinema featuring 007 and Jason Bourne.
The handling of the slapstick and set pieces offers up occasional mild droll pleasantries as English comes upon a set of three interlocking keys and a mind-control drug. The use of ladders and elevators for a rooftop, a chair in a boardroom, and a two-sided fight have a certain nutty charm about them. At least for the youngest in a matinee audience.
The character drawn from a Barclay card commercial has an unlikely love interest in a behavioral psychologist Kate (Rosamund Pike) and a sidekick in Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya) who still believe in him. There's an idol in Dominic West's suave Old Etonian Agent One in this self-referential foray with product placement for Toshiba where there are plenty of straight-men around Johnny.
The lensing by Danny Cohen (The King's Speech) and production design by Jim Clay make this kind of innocuous, somewhat sublime fare watchable and free-running. Atkinson hasn't appeared in much since the original, if one remembers Mr. Bean's Holiday and a small part in the heartfelt, uneven rom-com Love Actually. So, perhaps more than a few will be amused by another unapologetic halfhearted clownish caper with an ambitious contortionist perhaps at his best during the scrolling end credits.