The third instalment after JOHNNY ENGLISH and JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN, JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN sees one again bumbling secret agent (Mr. Bean who can speak) Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) saving the world, in this case from internet hacking by super villain Jason Volta (Jake Lacy).
When the film opens, English is a retired M17 agent now teaching geography at some boarding school. When M17 is on the receiving end of a massive cyber attack from an unknown entity, that exposes the identities of all its current field agents, the Prime Minister (Emma Thompson looking more puzzled than anything else probably wondering what she is doing in this dud) instructs M17 to reinstate older, inactive agents like Johnny English to be employed to solve the case. As a result of accidentally killing off three other older retired agents (cameos by Edward Fox, Michael Gambon and Charles Dance), he is given the job, which he undertakes with the help of his faithful and unfunny assistant, Angus Bough (Ben Miller).
British TV series expanded into feature films often take their characters on holidays (KEVIN AND PERRY GO LARGE, ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, ON THE BUSES etc. etc) to some foreign country. This sequel takes the agents to the south of France for their investigation. Nothing much in terms of comedy improves.
The oddest thing about the film is that the script by William Davies contains no shortage of elaborate comedic set-pieces. These includes among others these two:
English and Bough dressed up as French waiters devising ways to get close to a suspect dining in a French posh restaurant with his girlfriend. This involves a fire resulting from flambé prawns in order to nab a cellphone while eventually setting the entire restaurant ablaze
a Virtual Reality simulation with English taking down a number of innocent strangers in public while imagining he is fighting Volta’s men in his mansion home. This involves hitting a bakery eatery employee with two baguettes, toppling a tour guide on a double decker bus and pushing an old lady in a wheelchair out of a store.
Yet none of these generate any laughs – I did look around the theatre many times to see if anyone even remotely smiled
A smart idea of self parodying involves a glamorous Russian agent Ophelia Bulletova, played by former 007 James Bong girl, Olga Kurylenko who investigates Volta. Any segment involving her and English also fail to incite any humour.
On the positive side, the film contains no toilet or barf jokes, though there is a harmless (and again unfunny one) involving the agent caught with his trousers down.
The film has so far grossed, at the time of writing almost $100 million while garnishing generally unfavourable reviews by critics. The first two made around $160 million each which explains this third outing from Universal Pictures. At best, what can be said is that younger kids might find this whole espionage exercise entertaining.