Rowan Atkinson returns for a third outing as the bumbling half-wit spy in Johnny English Strikes Again. The film may have been hated by US critics and ignored by US moviegoers, this reviewer found it delightfully funny.
The Production: 3.5/5
British humor is largely misunderstood here in the Unites States, almost considered an acquired taste. Actor Rowan Atkinson, even more so – both movies featuring his nearly-silent character Mr. Bean and (now) all three films featuring bumbling spy Johnny English barely registered a blip at the US box office. According to a recent article in Forbes, Atkinson’s third and most recent film, Johnny English Strikes Again, 98% of the movie’s global box office came from outside the United States. Even worse, the movie scored a dismal 35% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes (although it fared a bit better with audiences, scoring 58%).
Johnny English Strikes Again is, essentially, a series of skits strung together by a thin plot, mostly recycled from the first film in the series. As the film opens, all MI7 agents have been outed (as opposed to killed in the first film) in a cyber attack by an unknown assailant. This same cyber terrorist then reroutes planes from Heathrow, and eventually brings all of London to a gridlock by turning all traffic lights red. With no current agents available for undercover work, the Prime Minister (Emma Thompson) is forced to call in retired Johnny English (Atkinson), now teaching geography (and espionage) to his students attending a boarding school in the countryside. He is quickly reunited with his old sidekick, Bough (Ben Miller), and the two make their way to southern France where the cyber attacks had been traced. This sets up a rather humorous sequence where the two pose as French waiters trying to steal a smart phone from one of the suspected patrons, leading to eventual mayhem. They soon discover that a yacht docked offshore, the Dot Calm, may actually be the source. English and Bough unsuccessfully sneak aboard, only to be captured by Russian agent Ophelia Bhuletova (Olga Kurylenko), who appears to be dating the ship’s owner, Jason Volta (Jake Lacy), a Silicon Valley tech millionaire and genius, who the Prime Minister just so happens to have hired to help her at the upcoming G12 Summit in Scotland. Like I said, this is a very thin plot, but it is the humor and antics of Atkinson (along with the reactions from the supporting players, especially Ben Miller) that help propel the film to some very funny hijinks. The most memorable being the sequence where Johnny English agrees to try a virtual reality simulation of Volta’s mansion and the consequences of the real world hidden from him by the VR goggles. Director David Kerr, whose previous credits include several episodes of British comedy series, makes an impressive feature debut with a brisk pace, keeping the “skits” and movie from overstaying their welcome.
3D Rating: NA
Johnny English Strikes Again looks terrific on Blu-ray in a clean and crisp AVC-encoded 1080p transfer that retains the film’s 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The movie was captured digitally on Red Epic Dragon cameras, yet has a nice film-like quality. Colors are natural and vibrant without bleeding (English’s bright red Aston Martin is a perfect example). Fine detail is excellent, from the wrinkles in English’s dress shirts and his aging face to the gravel on the streets of London. Contrast is also excellent, with deep blacks the retain a great deal of shadow detail and perceived depth during many of the darker night time scenes to the bright whites of sunlight peering through the sheer curtains of the Prime Minister’s office.
Universal has provided Johnny English Strikes Again with an immersive DTS:X track that does not disappoint. Heights are often employed with atmospherics (rain fall, street noise, etc.) as well as fully surrounding the viewer with Howard Goodall’s (Red Dwarf, Mr. Bean’s Holiday) score. LFE is strong, adding a nice deep-end to the musical score and explosions. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout, well prioritized without getting lost in the mix.
Special Features: 3.5/5
Audio Commentary with Director David Kerr: Kerr speaks very lovingly of making this film, often noting many of Atkinson’s moments of inspired physical comedy, but also tidbits of trivia such as the casting of three senior agents early in the film.
The Comedy Genius of Rowan Atkinson (1080p; 4:58): Ben Miller, David Kerr, and Emma Thompson discuss working with Rowan Atkinson (who also manages to talk a bit about himself, too).
A Cast of Characters (1080p; 7:12): A look at the various supporting characters in the film.
The “Johnny English” Legacy (1080p; 5:06): The cast and crew discuss the three Johnny English movies.
Virtual Reality “Johnny English” Style (1080p; 4:14): A look at the Virtual Reality sequence.
The Gadgets (1080p; 6:08): A look at the more analogue tech gadgets used by Johnny English.
The Cars (1080p; 5:07): A look at the cars used in the film and Rowan Atkinson’s love of cars.
Locations and Design (1080p; 4:03): A look at the locations and production design of the film.
DVD Copy: The movie in 480p and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio and all of the special features listed above,
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy on Movies Anywhere.
I enjoyed Johnny English Strikes Again more than I had expected to, and for fans of the actor or even British comedy should consider at least a rental.