Arts

Film review: Johnny English Strikes Again a fusty, outdated and unoriginal spy caper

Emma Thompson and Rowan Atkinson in Johnny English Strikes Again
Damon Smith

SEVEN years after Rowan Atkinson's MI7 agent blundered through the lacklustre sequel Johnny English Reborn, the rubber-faced leading man dusts off his licence to kill for a globetrotting third mission under the direction of David Kerr.

Alas, Johnny English Strikes Again is a load of Thunderballs.

Everything about the latest caper is fusty and outdated including a flimsy script penned by William Davies, which has the title character "go analogue" to defeat the hi-tech menace of cyberterrorists.

Consequently, English rejects a hybrid car in favour of a noisy, petrol-guzzling red Aston Martin Vantage, he receives vital intelligence via fax and listens to a cassette mixtape on his car stereo, blaring out Wham's I'm Your Man and Two Tribes by Frankie Goes To Hollywood as the dull, plodding spy game heads to the Cote d'Azur.

Atkinson recycles clowning set-pieces from his Mr Bean heyday with a gusto that is lacking from the film around him.

Every pratfall is telegraphed in advance and a final showdown with the film's glaringly obvious villain is a deflating anticlimax.

A devastating cyberattack compromises the identities and locations of serving MI7 operatives.

The British prime minister (Emma Thompson), who will be hosting a G12 summit in a matter of days and cannot afford a humiliating security breach, demands a swift response from MI7 boss Pegasus (Adam James).

"We don't have any agents left. They've all been outed!" she is informed.

"So bring back an old one!" barks the PM.

Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson), who is teaching geography at a preparatory school in Grantham, answers the call alongside retired Agents Six, Seven and Nine (Edward Fox, Charles Dance, Michael Gambon).

Following an unfortunate incident with a detonating pen, English is the last man standing and he ventures into the field with sidekick Bough (Ben Miller) and a duffel bag full of old school gadgets courtesy of P (Matthew Beard).

English and Bough track the cyberattack to a yacht, the Dot Calm, where they cross paths with beautiful Russian spy Ophelia (Olga Kurylenko).

Johnny English Strikes Again is a dispiriting tour of well-worn spy thriller tropes, which have already been parodied to the point of tedium.

Miller is a likeable straight man to Atkinson's buffoonery while Thompson hyperventilates as a witless, self-serving political animal, who expects others to put in the hard graft so she can take the credit. A tiny sliver of plausibility.

JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN (PG, 89 mins). Comedy/Action/Adventure/Romance. Rowan Atkinson, Ben Miller, Olga Kurylenko, Jake Lacy, Emma Thompson, Adam James, Matthew Beard, Charles Dance, Ward Fox, Michael Gambon. Director David Kerr.

RATING: 4/10

Released: October 5 (UK & Ireland)

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