Review: “Johnny English”

We’ve been subjected to countless Bond spoofs over the years, some have their own sense of style which allows for them to stand out (“Austin Powers”, “Spy Kids”) but for the most part they’ve been forgettable efforts which belong on a scrap heap.

‘Johnny’ joins the “Spy Hard” style toxic waste group – despite the presence of the likes of Atkinson and Malkovich, this tired comedy proves almost as painful as the big screen outing of “Mr. Bean” a few years back.

Many of the people on this (incl. the writers) are responsible for the Brosnan-era Bond flicks which have been for the most part solidly entertaining – yet this attempt at comedy ultimately fizzles because like the franchise it takes off, the material comes off as dumbed down to the point where as an audience member you feel not only disheartened but insulted.

There’s no denying that Atkinson’s small screen work remains some of the funniest material ever produced by any country – both “Mr. Bean” and especially “Black Adder” show off the actors talent for both physical comedy and biting satire yet even he struggles with the lack of material here. Every gag is worked the same way over and over again – Atkinson tries to come off as a super suave agent whilst he’s doing something, only to cock it up completely and look like an idiot.

A routine that could work, but when its repeated every minute for an hour and a half, it becomes tiring very quickly. Imbruglia brings both sex appeal and sassiness to a very underwritten role, Ben Miller makes an enjoyable ‘Turkish’ like sidekick part and Malkovich, well he has fun (though the accent is a bit much) but what in the hell is he doing in crap like this.

There are one or two gags the work including an admittedly funny high speed chase through London, but for the most part everything is as obvious and dated as a post-Naked Gun Leslie Nielsen movie including the villain’s somewhat silly yet fun ultimate scheme which feels like an inside joke about Australia (you’ll understand when you see it).

Production values including the locations, the design and the music are all top notch. A few laughs to be had? Sure. Hell there’s some nice chuckles in here, but for every one which works there’s a half dozen which don’t and that ultimately is what kills it.

Considering the talent involved and quality of the final product’s execution, it feels more like a bad US studio comedy than an English film where they know how to do something that’s biting. A good script with quality gags could’ve made this so much better. Sigh, as is its a letdown.