Rowan Atkinson is back as the bungling British spy in a third instalment. Put it this way - it's better than Quantum of Solace
With relations between Moscow and London being what they are and US tech giants going from heroes to zeroes in rapid succession, this seems a rather good time for the return of bungling British spy Johnny English in a new film which sees him grapple with a cyber mastermind and a beautiful Russian spy.
Of course, this kind of Bond send-up has been done to death, from Casino Royale way back in 1967 to Austin Powers’ more recent shagtastic adventures. But heeeere’s Johnny, the 00 - 7 of British Intelligence prat-falling back into traction-inducing action at the very time when silly questions about the "real-life" James Bond swirl like scraps of paper in the wind.
Watch our interview with Rowan Atkinson
Directed by Belfast native David Kerr, Rowan Atkinson - who, of course, appeared in the continuity Connery Bond movie Never Say Never Again - does his best rubber-faced physical comedy in some very good set pieces, while Olga Kurylenko, who played a Bond girl in the misfiring Quantum of Solace, looks on in bewilderment. Thankfully, the always reliable Ben Miller is back as Johnny’s toady sidekick, Bough.
Watch our interview with Ben Miller
Johnny, now "retired" from the British secret service, is called back to duty after a cyber-attack reveals the identity of every active undercover agent in Britain. He is Blighty’s last hope in finding the mastermind hacker but Johnny is an analogue abacus in a digital world, a bit like the broken down Bond Javier Bardem’s baddie sneered at in Skyfall.
So armed with a package of exploding jelly babies, some lethal cotton buds, and a mix-tape featuring Wham!, Orange Juice and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, he sets off back into the field with Bough.
Every cliché in the Bond handbook is exploited, from fast cars, commando-style raids on millionaire yachts, romantic liaisons in exotic bars and Atkinson - half Mr. Bean, half Blackadder - and co manage to knock quite a few giggles out of the whole dopey spectacle.
Watch our interview with Olga Kurylenko and director David Kerr
There is a funny VR scene in which Johnny’s lo-tech outlook sees him spill out onto a busy London street and mistake innocent Londoners for computer-generated foes. However, the movie belongs to Emma Thompson as the boozy and bossy Prime Minister, who barks out befuddled orders while keeping her wine glass filled to a respectable level.
It’s all good knockabout fun. Put it this way - it’s better than Quantum of Solace. Oh, and someone please give Thompson her own movie as a tantrum-throwing PM.
Alan Corr @corralan