Published Oct 20, 2011Aware that its self-conscious satire of the Bond franchise and the resultant referential sight gags and shenanigans are specific to an adult demographic familiar specifically with the Roger Moore oeuvre, Johnny English Reborn resorts to humour of the testicular variety quite often to placate the targeted youth viewership.
In the opening scene, Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) is receiving some type of Zen training at the sort of rural Asian monastery that exists only in the movies. His main lesson involves strengthening his balls, tying weights to them and dragging them around, and so on. This comes in handy later in the film, since all three secret villains ― be it Chinese, Russian or whatever (expanding on that would give away the climax) ― holding Vortex keys that have something to do with a plot to assassinate the Chinese premiere (or whatever) use ball kicking as their main method of combat. And, inevitably, everyone on the receiving end clutches their crotch, crosses their eyes and makes the standard "ohhhh" sound we've all grown accustomed to.
Fortunately, the other interactions and scenarios, wherein Johnny English repeatedly bumbles up his investigation, bickers with icy boss Pamela (Gillian Anderson) and fiddles with contraptions at inopportune moments, work quite well, actually surpassing the original film in wittiness and entertainment value.
For example, there's a dry scene of exposition where various members of Her Majesty's Secret Service are doling out plot points and explanations as to why the keys hold importance and who might be involved in the conspiracy. Normally, a scene like this in a comedy would be painful, but the entire sequence focuses on Atkinson after he breaks his electronic chair, dryly discussing items of global importance while sitting two-feet above everyone else, trying to maintain an air of dignity.
Similarly, a set piece where English has to chase a much younger, fit assassin is handled with a sly critique, showing the Chinese villain hopping over fences and climbing down the sides of buildings while English opens doors and takes elevators.
The result is an imperfect and narratively incomprehensible film that is actually a lot of fun. Even if it's nearly impossible to believe that Rosamund Pike would have any romantic interest in Rowan Atkinson, the clever comedy and referential action sequences more than compensate. (Universal)