Back in 2003, Johnny English charmed us with its hilarious jokes, witty characters, some exciting action scenes and it’s all around fun dialogue, although it received a mixed critical reception. However, the idea of a sequel to Johnny English arouse quite a few questions, including why it took over 7 years for a sequel and whether the majority of the original cast would return. Having said that, the released theatrical trailer of film seemed exactly what was expected from it (like its predecessor): something that was bound to make people laugh and to get a lot of fun from. Many times over the years there have been long-lost sequels to a film to be released or sequels that are last expected, but in the case of Johnny English Reborn is certainly on the top of the unexpected sequels list.
Considering the film’s sudden release, it did have many unexpected surprises in the package. The biggest surprises about the sequel in comparison to the first film was that the dialogue was a bit darker, more serious and perhaps more realistic. Once again, it features references of the James Bond films in forms of the comedy genre but this time we get a story that fits more into that with more exciting action. It had its laugh out loud humour in the sequel that we felt familiar with from its predecessor. On the other hand, the film did have its weaknesses that wore it down to the slightly lower level at didn’t quite meet the standard required of its predecessor. There were some lacking with character development and acting from some of the new actors, and the scenes with the martial arts weren’t really necessary. Those scenes could’ve totally killed the film (and Rowan Atkinson’s career), so it’s a relief that those scenes were simply cut short.
Rowan Atkinson makes his return as Johnny English, and how great it really was to have him back. Critically, Atkinson needed his breakthrough after the incredibly yet harshly bashed Mr. Bean’s Holiday. Although this film hasn’t received worldwide critical acclaim, he gives a worthy enough performance to remember that shows his true colours as an actor. Rosamund Pike, ironically a previous Bond girl in Die Another Day stars in the “comedy version of James Bond” as Kate, the love interest of Johnny and MI7’s psychologist. She was a satisfactory replacement of Natalie Imbruglia in the first film. Considering that Pike wasn’t in the sequel quite as often as Imbruglia was in the predecessor as Lorna Campbell, the chemistry between Kate and Johnny was a lot more personal. So, fair cops to Rosamund Pike for her performance.
Quite frankly, I felt bewildered at the fact that Pegasus, the Head of MI7 was portrayed by Gillian Anderson when the said character was performed by Tim Pigott-Smith in the predecessor. The decision to change the Pegasus character from male to female in this sequel was clearly inspired from the decision to change M in the James Bond films from male to female. This is not a sexist remark in the slightest, but coming from one’s personal opinion, the decision to change Pegasus from male to female didn’t feel right because it felt like a totally different person in terms of personality. So, Anderson may have looked hot, but character development as Pegasus just wasn’t there. Other new actors Dominic West and Daniel Kaluuya both gave at least satisfactory performances in their respective roles. Unfortunately, Ben Miller never appeared as Agent Angus Bough in the sequel, but Kaluuya as Agent Tucker, Johnny’s side-kick/accomplice was a worthy enough replacement.
In addition to the majority of the cast changing, the selected director is also another slight adjustment in this sequel. Peter Howitt certainly did a very good job on-set of the first film with the sequences within the supposed Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, and the real Queen etc. So, that was well handled, and it was a surprise to find out that he didn’t return for the sequel. Anyhow, Oliver Parker’s talents as a filmmaker are not a top-notch masterful style, but due to the cleverly handled action scenes, it is a solid start to a career that could become something worthwhile. William Davies, a co-writer of the first Johnny English alters from screen-writing in a team (also recently co-wrote How To Train Your Dragon), but now goes on to work alone. He goes on to make a solid attempt at writing a script at a high standard of the action-comedy genre as a whole. The film is filled with gags and hilarious jokes that will make you laugh so much, you will not be able to stop until it hurts. So, thumbs up to the director and screenwriter of the film.
Overall, Johnny English Reborn is a surprisingly delightful treat that perhaps was unexpectedly made but turned out as hilarious and as fun as the first film. Rowan Atkinson has performed beyond average once again, and has made up for his role in Mr. Bean’s Holiday. Apart from the few bad decisions and minor weaknesses and like its predecessor, it proves itself a worthy success that will entertain its viewers time and time again over the next few years. Or better yet, we could be in for one final return that completes a possible Johnny English trilogy.