We certainly as a movie-watching culture are spoiled by Hollywood attempts to cash in on a popular series of films. Whether it’s the Fast & Furious series, the Marvel films, or the eleventh Halloween film, but third film in the series to be titled just “Halloween”, there are degrees of success just as there are degrees of attention paid to each series, but I digress. The point was the space between the films in a franchise has become considerably closer together, even the Austin Powers trilogy took 5 years to complete. But the Johnny English series is not as concerned with such things, since Johnny English Strikes Again is the third film in 15 years, and it seems the creators feel that universal Mr. Bean love will never die even if he’s a bumbling British spy called Johnny.
After a cyber attack reveals the identities of all the agents in the field, MI7 must reinstate inactive agents including Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) who is now a teacher in a primary school but secretly teaches his students to be mini-James Bonds. As the bumbling agent arrives his course of action is to go old-school on this new digital age, relying on ancient gadgets and his non-electric petrol guzzling Aston Martin. With his former partner Bough (Ben Miller) in tow, the par head to France to find the source of the cyber attack. Meanwhile the Prime Minister (Emma Thompson) is trying desperately to save face as more and more invasions of their digital networks occur. She attempts to go into business with genius billionaire Jason Volta (Jake Lacey) hoping that his technology will protect her country from further embarrassment. But taking care of that front is English and Bough as they make contact with a Russian spy Ophelia (Olga Kurylenko) who is working with Volta who may have more sinister motives for England and possibly the world.
What confounds me the most about the Johnny English films is, I’m not exactly sure who they are intended for. The films are rated PG so there is no real edge to them for an adult looking for a fun spy romp, but if they are intended for kids, I can’t imagine that any kid would get the references being spoofed since they are not old enough to have seen half a dozen James Bond films. Where the first film was littered with them and the second which if I had to choose is the best of the three films and this latest installment is reduced to simple prat-falls, easy jokes, and an over reliance on Atkinson’s facial reaction to situations for its humor. Though most of the laughs never come and as it plays things even slightly straight it just becomes boring. Also with the rotating directors and despite the fact that screenwriter William Davies has been with Johnny English since the beginning there still seems to be no clear vision. Or if this is and was what it was always intended to be, maybe it’s time to finally put away his gadgets and his truly retire this agent before it fails to bring the funny in English or any other language all together.