March 23, 2012


Johnny English is solely an international phenomenon. The first Rowan Atkinson-starring vehicle made $28 Million stateside and its sequel made $8, but the first made $132 Million internationally and its sequel made $152 Million. Even if the third film goes straight to DVD stateside, it’s likely more is in order. In the second film, Atikson plays against Dominic West, Gillian Anderson and Rosamund Pike in another parody of the 007 legend. It’s all very good for Atkinson fans, but there’s thin gruel here for everyone else. Our review of Johnny English Reborn on Blu-ray follows after the jump.

The film starts with Legend retired and learning the ways of kung-fu. This is all very silly and requires English to have special training to protect his testicles. He comes back in and insults his new boss Pegasus (Anderson) by pretending to play with her cat, and then worries he’s knocked the poor thing out the window in an uninspired sequence. The cat is safe however. While in the office he meets MI7’s behavioral psychologist Kate Sumner (Rosamund Pike), and fellow agent Simon Ambrose (Dominic West) before heading off to Macau with junior agent Chris Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya).johnny-english-reborn-poster

English bumbles his way through the assignment, and nearly gets killed by a cleaning lady assassin, but finds the thing they are looking for: “Vortex,” a secret society of assassins who have a special key that will help them assassinate world leaders through mind control. It also turns out they’re the ones who messed up English’s previous assignment in Mozambique, which sent him into hiding. But as he gets closer to figuring out the identities of Vortex, the more dangerous it gets, as there’s a mole in his organization.

Atkinson’s humor – when not in something like Black Adder – is often physical in nature, mild, and slapsticky. And though there’s moments of that here, most of the jokes elicit more of a smile of recognition that chuckles. It’s a very proper comedy, except when it resorts to potty humor that’s rarely funny. Chuck in a spy plot that’s as old as time – perfunctory love interests and betrayal – it makes for something to watch with grandparents you don’t want to offend.

Atkinson is a marvelous talent, and there are some modestly inspired gags – I like the bit where people are pointing guns at each other but have a détente simply because someone else walked in and because they’re British – but it’s a whole lot of nothing.

Universal’s Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in English 5.1 DTS-HD master audio. Looking good. The Blu-ray edition also comes with a DVD and digital copy. Extras start with a commentary by director Oliver Parker and screenwriter Hamish McColl, which is dullish to say the least. There are seventeen deleted scenes with intros from Parker (39 min.). There are all sorts of small gags in here that aren’t missed, like English translating Chinese poorly or mistaking his new boss for a secretary. It’s followed by a gag reel (2 min.), a making of (25 min.), and “Working with Rowan” (4 min.), which has the cast commenting on how hilarious their star is. “Gadgets” (3 min.) ”English in Hong Kong” (5 min.), and “Wheelchair Chase” (5 min.) plays up the film’s basis as a parody of 007.

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