Johnny rot­ten

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies - JOHNNY ENGLISH RE­BORN

In that tone, Atkin­son pro­ceeds to spruik his lat­est film. As well as play­ing the lead, he is also ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and co-writer.

‘‘ Of all the things I do, I tend to try to ex­er­cise some sort of cre­ative guid­ance of the whole process,’’ he says.

‘‘ But, at the same time, I am some­one who doesn’t par­tic­u­larly need or want on-screen credit.

‘‘ I’m a great be­liever that if you are an ac­tor, par­tic­u­larly the lead ac­tor in a film, you au­to­mat­i­cally get all the ex­po­sure and credit you de­serve, or don’t, with­out hav­ing your name splashed all over the place.’’

Johnny English Re­born is set five years af­ter the orig­i­nal, dur­ing which time the ac­ci­den­tal se­cret agent for Her Majesty’s Se­cret Ser­vice has been hon­ing his skills with Ti­betan monks. He’s called back into ser­vice when a group of in­ter­na­tional as­sas­sins try to kill the Chi­nese Pre­mier to take over the world.

‘‘ Johnny English try­ing to ab­sorb him­self into a for­eign cul­ture is bound to be a rich area and, of course, it’s all based on the fact that five years ago he was fired from the se­cret ser­vice be­cause of a ma­jor in­ci­dent in Mozam­bique,’’ Atkin­son says.

‘‘ The film is ba­si­cally the story of his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and reac­cep­tance back into the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity.’’

In the trailer, we watch a di­shev­elled Johnny English drag­ging stones with his gen­i­tals as he trains with Ti­betan monks.

‘‘ If you go on YouTube, you will see footage that bears a re­mark­able re­sem­blance to our film. I don’t want to give too much away, but what­ever you see is very much based in truth.’’

He says it’s the fish-out-of-wa­ter com­edy that makes Johnny English funny.

‘‘ The essence of the char­ac­ter is that he’s not as good as he thinks he is. And it’s in that gap be­tween his am­bi­tion and his abil­ity where the com­edy lies, the fact he falls short.

‘‘ But what is fun is see­ing the char­ac­ter dig his own grave re­ally on a reg­u­lar ba­sis be­cause he has this smug­ness.

‘‘ Even though the jokes are not that so­phis­ti­cated, I think they are a lit­tle more sub­tle maybe or a lit­tle more ma­ture than the jokes in the first film.

‘‘ This is a fam­ily com­edy, which is a fairly rare thing these days.’’ While Atkin­son be­lieves Johnny English

Re­born to be a fun­nier film than the orig­i­nal, it’s also more se­ri­ous – par­tic­u­larly when it comes to James Bond ref­er­ences.

Atkin­son him­self has runs on the board in the long-run­ning spy fran­chise, play­ing a bum­bling Bri­tish bu­reau­crat in the 1983 ‘‘ non of­fi­cial’’ Bond film, Never Say Never

Again, in which Sean Con­nery re­turned af­ter 12 years away from the role.

Co-star Pike also starred as the vil­lain­ous Mi­randa Frost in the 2002 Bros­nan-era film

Die An­other Day.

‘‘ That’s the world we are in­hab­it­ing and we tried to make that side of it a lit­tle more se­ri­ous ac­tu­ally, more be­liev­able. The other cast­ing, with Do­minic West and Rosamund Pike, was done as if we were cast­ing a James Bond film.

‘‘ It’s against a very se­ri­ous and we think bet­ter-writ­ten back­drop that this rather more ridicu­lous char­ac­ter of Johnny English is placed, in the hope that the jokes are bet­ter set in a se­ri­ous con­text.’’ So why Aus­tralia for the world pre­miere? ‘‘ Most peo­ple raise their eye­brows when I say I am off to Aus­tralia for the world pre­miere,’’ Atkin­son says.

‘‘ Re­lease pat­terns are a mys­tery to me. They’re all about what the lo­cal mar­ket­ing peo­ple think is the best time to re­lease the movie. Have you got a par­tic­u­lar hol­i­day com­ing in the mid­dle of Septem­ber?’’

On an­other note, Atkin­son’s fans may be dis­ap­pointed to hear he has no plans of play­ing Mr Bean again. He last played the mum­bling man-child in the 2007 film, Mr Bean’s Hol­i­day.

‘‘ I’ve got a feel­ing I prob­a­bly won’t play the char­ac­ter again. Never say never, but I just feel I’m get­ting a bit old for it.

‘‘ I’ve al­ways liked Mr Bean as a car­toon­like fig­ure who doesn’t re­ally age much.

‘‘ I’ve al­ways seen him as an age­less, time­less be­ing and I’m clearly not age­less and time­less.

‘‘ The older I get, I feel that I am less qual­i­fied to play the part.’’

{ I’m a great be­liever that if you are an ac­tor, par­tic­u­larly the lead ac­tor in a film, you au­to­mat­i­cally get all the ex­po­sure and credit you de­serve, or don’t, with­out hav­ing your name splashed all over the place }

RE­VIEW

JOHNNY ENGLISH RE­BORN ( PG)

★ ■

Di­rec­tor: Oliver Parker

( St Trini­ans)

Stars: Rowan Atkin­son, Rosamund Pike, Do­minic West, Gil­lian An­der­son Shut your eyes and don’t think of English DE­SPITE what the ti­tle prom­ises, com­edy is still dead to Rowan Atkin­son.

The Bri­tish ex-fun­ny­man orig­i­nally de­vel­oped the Johnny English per­sona while prep­ping ma­te­rial for a se­ries of credit card ad­ver­tise­ments at the turn of the mil­len­nium.

A ter­ri­ble film fol­lowed in 2003, in which Mr English was re­vealed to be a shoddy combo of a crap James Bond, a more talk­a­tive Mr Bean and The Pink Pan­ther ’ s In­spec­tor Clouseau ‘‘ wiz­zout ze Frah­nch ac­cent’’.

Now, eight years later, we have the marginally su­pe­rior Johnny English Re­born. The se­quel is bet­ter only be­cause Atkin­son ( pic­tured) has sur­rounded him­self with some solid mid­dleweight act­ing tal­ent this time.

On a hu­mour level, how­ever, the film is a straight re­hash. Mod­er­ately funny, if you still laugh like a drain at peo­ple walk­ing into stuff, fall­ing off stuff, and who have their pri­vate parts in­ad­ver­tently col­lide with stuff. Chill­ingly un­funny if you don’t.

Like the af­ter­math of a dog vis­it­ing a tree, the wa­tery for­mula de­vised by Atkin­son trick­les this way and that, but there’s lit­tle point in watch­ing where its head­ing.

At fixed in­ter­vals, Atkin­son’s bum­bling su­per-spy will make a ridicu­lous dec­la­ra­tion ( some­thing like ‘‘ I am re­garded as an ex­pert marks­man’’.) A few sec­onds will pass and then the dec­la­ra­tion will be dis­proved ( cue ac­ci­den­tal dis­charge of weapon, fol­lowed by hail of ric­o­chet­ing bul­lets).

If any­one out there has a time ma­chine, might you travel eight years into the fu­ture and tell us if Atkin­son dares make a Johnny English Rein­car­nated? I know it’s a long way off, but

Johnny English Re­born is so aw­ful that we could use all the ad­vance warn­ing we can get.

X-FAC­TOR:

Gil­lian An­der­son ( left), Rosamund Pike with Atkin­son and a scene from the lat­est movie.

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