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Johnny English Strikes Again
Jack Bottomley, Media Correspondent
Johnny English has come a long way since Barclaycard adverts, where the character’s roots began (he was inspired by Rowan Atkinson’s Richard Latham character in those ads). Since then, national comedy treasure Atkinson brought a new pratfalling British agent to the big screen in the 2003 hit film Johnny English and again in 2011’s Johnny English Reborn. This franchise has endured and carved out its own little audience over the years. Now, after 7 years, Johnny English Strikes again…

Currently teaching Geography at a boy’s boarding school, English (Atkinson) is called out of retirement when a hacker has revealed the identities of every in the field British agent. Can English enter a high tech multimedia age and overcome his analogue ways to stop the world from plunging into chaos?

Johnny English Strikes Again admittedly does recycle some previous gags and plot points and no doubt the story itself is very familiar but frankly, you won’t care. Strikes Again moves with such vigour and boasts such infectious silliness, that it is irresistibly charming and pleasant family entertainment. The gag rate is rapid and does not dilly-dally; with often perfect comic timing, and jokes being meticulously set up and the punch line being gamely delivered moments later with finesse and aplomb.

At the core of the spy spoofing slapstick and rubber faced chuckle riot is Atkinson who, now at 63, has not lost a beat. He remains a genius of the genre and one of our most under appreciated icons of comedy. He throws himself into everything from the car chases (a lot of which the self-admitted petrol head did himself) to the very funny set pieces, the highlight of which is a hyperactive dance floor scene that feels like pure Mr. Bean in all its limb bendiness!

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Off its leading man’s commitment, the film rollicks along, as the plot generously makes light of the spy genre’s shift in conventions, our reliance on Internet technology and the “health and safety gone mad” age. Atkinson is also joined in his spoofery by a plethora of strong support, from Quantum of Solace Bond girl Olga Kurylenko and the much welcome return of Ben Miller as Bough, to a scene stealingly fab Emma Thompson as a flustered and inept British Prime Minister (we’re saying nothing!). Alongside some surprising cameos.

Concise and affectionate, the film is directed by David Kerr (Inside No. 9), just as franchise scribe William Davies writes it – more specifically - with no hiding away what the film is. Filled with some genuinely cool gadgets and action, alongside fun comic sequences and characters, this is a real hoot.

Johnny English Strikes Again is like your favourite slippers and dressing gown, perhaps not new and with the odd hole but absolutely comfortable, warm and perfect to just enjoy sinking into. It is great that this series and its central hero have kept such traditional physical comedy alive in a modern mainstream, filled with of gross out, violence, sexual gratuity and profanity.

I loved it, just as much as the other two films in the series and whether or not it is the bow out for the character, this only confirms my suspicion, that you can’t go wrong with a film that features virtual reality baguette battery and exploding tea cups. Especially with Rowan Atkinson at the steering wheel!

Johnny English will return? Who knows, but I’d be happy having him back again.

Johnny English Strikes Again (PG)
Director: David Kerr
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Ben Miller, Emma Thompson, Olga Kurylenko
Release Date: Out Now

Johnny English Strikes Again, 9th October 2018, 10:00 AM