After a cyber-attack reveals the identity of all active undercover agents in Britain, Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) is forced to come out of retirement. He has his old partner Bough (Ben Miller) by his side to help him find the mastermind hacker. Along the way, they meet a Russian woman named Ophelia (Olga Kurylenko) who may or may not have connections with the hacker.
At the start of the film, when all of Britain’s spies have been outed, the Prime Minister – played by the ever-fabulous Emma Thompson – demands that MI7 “bring back an old one.” That phrase can be applied to the film as a whole. From its comedic style to its array of gadgets that recall classic spy movies – including magnetic boots, an exploding pen (as well as explosive cotton ear buds and jelly babies), and an inflatable boat inside a shoe box, to name a few – Johnny English is ‘old school’ through and through, and will likely find little appeal among the Millennial audience.
At that, fans of Rowan Atkinson are going to love this film as are children whom the film’s slapstick style of comedy, replete with pratfalls and silly dancing, should delight. The studio behind the film is clearly aware of this younger audience as they make the threat of the hacker miniscule, his scheme causing little more than traffic jams and flight delays.
Casting wise, Bond fans (Daniel Craig edition that is) will be excited to see ‘Quantum of Solace’ star Olga Kurylenko here, and she does well to convince as a double agent who is won over by English, unable to help herself smiling and laughing around him. Atkinson continues to exhibit his mastery of comedy. Even at 63, he’s a ballsy performer, always going for it, and there’s something inherently winsome about that. His classic style mirrors the themes of the film itself, which sees ‘old school’, traditional ways (there’s even a mix tape in – and the first single on it is Wham! Elsewhere there’s a floppy disk) come up against new technologies and a younger generation.
All this leads us to the question of is it actually funny? Honestly, there are quite a few jokes that fall flat. However, the ones that do land are really very funny, with notable standouts include the virtual reality sequence, a very clever cameo ensemble, and a scene involving a learner driver. The film is perfect if you’re in the mood for a laugh, and it is the best of the ‘Johnny English’ series.