Directed by: Oliver Parker
Produced by: Tim Bevan
Screenplay by: William Davies
Starring: Rowan Atkinson
Music by: Ilan Ishkeri
Cinematography by: Danny Cohen
Editing by: Guy Bensley
Working Title Films
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release date(s): October 7, 2011 (United Kingdom/International)
October 21, 2011 (North America)
Running time: 101 minutes
Country(s): United Kingdom
Box office (as of publication): $85, 100,000
Once again, I have been slack. However, not withstanding the university work and having spent my weekend taking my Scout troop to Ardnavalley, I do have a number of updates coming in for movies. If I can schedule things right (which I should be able to), I can get at least four reviews done this week, and can guarantee (and I mean guarantee) in the upcoming weeks reviews for REC 2 (I know, it was out in the UK in 2010, but this was the earliest I could get it), Fast Five, Never Let Me Go, Tyrannosaur and Barbarossa: Siege Lord, which was released on DVD this year. There is the potential for me to watch I Saw The Devil and a few others, so keep your eyes posted. On another note, I saw my first Charlie Chaplin film in City Lights last week and was spellbound. It was significantly funnier than most of the comedies I have seen in recent years, and also packs a strong emotional punch of pathos that conjured the kind of emotion that one rarely feels but recognises when they know they have seen a good film.
In a film not unlike the slapstick that of Chaplin, Rowan Atkinson returns in one of his most-loved roles, that of Johnny English. The character began as 'Richard Latham' in a series of Barclaycard advertisements, and due to their popularity, evolved into a 2003 film which earned over $160 million worldwide, and became arguably Atkinson's most well-known character excepting Mr. Bean. In this film, Johnny English (Atkinson) is found learning martial arts and self-control in Tibet as penance for the outcome of a disastrous earlier mission. MI7 identifies him as the best possible agent for a new mission, much to the chagrin of MI7's 'Pegasus' (Gillian Anderson). His task involves curtailing a group of international assassins from killing the Chinese premier and upsetting international politics/relations for the British government.
To start with what is good, we must focus on Atkinson. This film could not be more so a vehicle for him than it is, so it is a treat to see that he is on form. One of the greatest living comedians, Atkinson takes real care in constructing his characters, with all their tics and eccentricities, every little movement associated and of relevance to the character. He is always a pleasure to behold onscreen, no matter what the context. Also praiseworthy about this film is the mise-en-scene. Like the James Bond film's that it parodies, J.E.R. is an international affair, with some great location scouting having been done. When not looking at some grand scenery, the production designers have provided us with some well-made interior sets. Furthermore, the costumes add to what is most certainly a believable film-world. Finally, there are a few good gags that involve Tim McKinnery, mistaken identity(s) and a helicopter.
While Rowan Atkinson in anything is usually a warm welcome, it's the meal behind the glossy presentation that one judges a film by. In this case, the meal gets stale rather quick, thanks in most part to a barely digestible script. Atkinson may be a terrific comedian, but there is only so much anyone can do with this stuff. The actors (and the audience) are subjected to some terrible bits of dialogue that couldn't be any more overt in the meanings they are trying to get across. Rosamund Pike, Daniel Kaluuya and Dominic West suffer the most, and as a result give some wooden and lifeless performances. Also, there is an intense amount of predictability in the film, to the point where if you get a plot 'point' right once, you can guess the whole film from there. Even those who I have praised recently do not escape the firing line: Ilan Eshkeri, who after doing a great score for Blitz, has pulled a swerve not unlike Michael Giacchino earlier in the year, and paged in a score that is so dull and so lacking in life that reeks of a smell I can only identify as "Not Funny!" Speaking of stenches, the film's synchronisation of cinematography and editing in the case of the action scenes and special effects is pretty dire. For a movie that was clearly over $50 million budget-wise, it does itself no good that some of the scenes that are obviously (which they shouldn't be) green-screen had me thinking of some of the shots of Marlon Brando riding his motorcycle in 1954's The Wild One. Work of this quality, or lack thereof, is like something I see on SciFi at two in the morning from The Asylum. My final criticism is of director Oliver Parker. Regardless of how well things may have went on set, he has directed a cluster-fuck of a film that also happens to be very boring. He should have been able to identify some of the film's pitfalls and at least improve Johnny English Reborn to a certain extent, as opposed to leaving it in this rather castrated form.
It is a shame that Johnny English Reborn is as bad as it is. Though not quite in the level of Zookeeper and Swinging With The Finkels for bad comedy, this film has a rubbish script, bad score, and poor synchronisation of cinematography and editing/special-effects that really should have been noticed by director Oliver Parker. He should thank the great production designer(s), costume designer(s), location scouts and Rowan Atkinson for keeping this from being one of the worst film's of the year. However, being in that purgatory zone, Johnny English Reborn ends up being a forgettable film that has already faded a good bit from my memory. Rowan, I hope you got a good paycheque!
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 4.3/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Jakked! (For a change, I'm ready to take on the world!)
P.S. Had to pick that picture: Rowan Atkinson pulling faces can't help but bring out a laugh!