Johnny English Repackaged might be a more fitting title for Oliver Parker’s belated sequel to the 2003 comedy, which poked gentle fun at the image of British spies as debonair gents with a licence to kill.
Aside from the casting of rising star Daniel Kaluuya as Johnny’s sidekick and a prominent role for a voice-controlled Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe V16, Johnny English Reborn could have been shot directly after the original film and left to gather dust on a shelf marked Straight To DVD Some Day.
While the new incarnation James Bond has been playing catch-up with Jason Bourne, Rowan Atkinson’s secret agent continues to hark back to the Connery and Moore years.
He’s out-dated and a chauvinist, dismissing the most obvious suspect for a shooting simply because it’s a woman (Pik Sen Lim).
Action sequences unfold at pedestrian pace - literally in the case of a rooftop pursuit.
A car and motorcycle chase through London looks sluggish even with footage clearly speeded up.
Following a disastrous mission in Mozambique, Johnny (Atkinson) turns his back on MI7 and heads to a Tibetan retreat to learn that, “Mind must be master of body”.
Section chief Pamela Thornton (Gillian Anderson) woos him back to help thwart an assassination attempt on the Chinese premier.
She pairs him up with rookie agent Tucker (Kaluuya), who lives in south London with his mother and finesses his gun skills by playing on his Xbox.
After a meeting with Agent Titus Fisher (Richard Schiff), Johnny learns of a dastardly plot masterminded by a shadowy organisation called Vortex.
“Vortex is KGB, CIA and MI7,” reveals another contact as Johnny joins forces with fellow operative Simon Ambrose (Dominic West) and sexy behavioural psychologist Kate Sumner (Rosamund Pike) to unmask a traitor at the very heart of British Intelligence.
Johnny English is an old-fashioned, gently effervescent spy caper that amuses but rarely delights.
Atkinson’s talent for physical humour delivers a couple of belly laughs including a hilarious tussle between Johnny and the Chinese premier’s secret assassin.
His contortions are pure Mr Bean while the rest of the cast keep straight faces.
A broken lever on a swivel chair, which causes the eponymous agent to rise and fall during an important meeting, is an old chestnut but director Parker roasts it to perfection.
The script lacks invention and dialogue feels flat apart from the occasional zinging one-liner such as when Johnny tells disfigured gadget expert Patch Quartermain (Tim McInnerny), who uses a wheelchair, “Great to see... what’s left of you”.
Atkinson’s co-stars do what they can with their two-dimensional roles as the sequel trundles towards the inevitable final showdown in a snow-laden mountain-top hideout complete with a cable car as the only escape route.
After this second assignment, Johnny’s licence to thrill has been revoked.
Review by Damon Smith
:: NO SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 5/10
Released: October 7 (UK & Ireland), 101 mins