Friday, September 16, 2011

Johnny English Reborn

Master of Disguise


Silly spies and comical cops are always a welcome treat to chase those blues away as far as my record goes, from the likes of Frank Drebin to Austin Powers , perhaps there is none other than Rowan Atkinson's Johnny English, a misfit of British Intelligence, that was much maligned when first unleashed into the world back in 2003. Atkinson is better known throughout the world as Mr Bean, his most successful creation to date, but his Johnny English didn't receive as much love, so a sequel to the film is somewhat surprising, yet anticipated because of Atkinson's prolonged absence from the big screen.

This of course gets explained in Johnny English Reborn, who had spent the last five years in a monastery after being dismissed for embarrassing MI7 in a mission failure at Mozambique, learning new skills such as mind over matter, training the weakest part of the body (his head actually, if you get the meaning), and strengthening parts of the body which got abused to slapstick perfection. And when all else fails, experience is something to put into good use to compensate for whatever's lacking when up against opponents. What you see in the trailer, forms the new, upgraded version of the British superspy, now recalled and reinstated, but not without his boss Pamela (Gillian Anderson) providing him with sidekick Agent Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya), and the usual host of wonderful spy toys.

As if to spoof the very obvious James Bond further which got reboot through Casino Royale, English begins his first mission at Casino Lisboa in Macau before jet setting back to Kowloon, Hong Kong, and back to Britain. And to add the feather in the cap, Rosamund Pike, who was a one time Bond Girl in Die Another Day, joins the cast as a typical Bond girl role as Kate Sumner the psycho-analyst, who reads body language for a living, recruited so as to assist in a diplomatic mission of helping the British Prime Minister react and respond to a one on one meeting with the Chinese premier, which a secret assassin organization known as Vortex is trying to disrupt.

Most of the time the story involves English and team running around trying to solve who the three key persons in Vortex are in an attempt to avoid a grave diplomatic row, so the scenarios painted contain plenty of slapstick laughs, and repetition at times when carrying on a joke for far too long, such as the cleaning lady gag. Toilet humour are part and parcel of its arsenal, although it goes to show how receptive audiences here can be whenever it involves a good dose of kicking the nuts (to rapturous applause I must add). It's an exercise of expectations and anticipation with spy movies like these, where every single gadget and skill introduced are a cocked Chekov's gun waiting to be unleashed at least once when the time is opportune, and always coincidentally, everything has its place in good time.

It's likely Rowan Atkinson's absence on the big and small screen contributed to the enthusiastic turn out as well as response to the gags he pulled, which is reminiscence of his abilities to perform facial gymnastics to pull a funny face, be it a twitch of the eye, or full blown rubbery effect. In some ways his Johnny English character has now aged like fine wine, being mellower yet no less bumbling in his tasks, being silly yet endearing, knowing that he'll pull out safely from any ordeal he finds himself in, from being chased by hordes of agents, to one on one fisticuffs. Daniel Kaluuya is also a wonderful addition in becoming the intelligence rudder for Team English, funny in his own right, although being a rookie character is hardly ever taken seriously, much less by his partner. Gillian Anderson doesn't do much with her M inspired role, while Dominic West had considerably greater screen time as the alpha spy and long time friend of English.

Should anyone be searching for a clear message or moral of the story, I'd say you're barking up the wrong tree. Surely there are elements of "brotherhood" and trust issues strewn around, but look no further than this film providing sheer entertainment while you're at it, since you're likely to forget what had exactly transpired or the jokes told in detail. If you haven't had enough of Atkinson and his Johnny English persona, then stay behind when the end credits roll for a short scene where he struts his stuff in the kitchen preparing a meal for two, synchronized to classical music. Welcome back, Rowan Atkinson!

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