New Straits Times

Strike three, you’re out!


I USED to get easily amused by Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean. His wacky antics in the near-silent comedy had me laughing my head off. But did I like Rowan Atkinson as the accidental secret agent in the first two spy spoofs, Johnny English?

Meh, he was alright. He was no Mr Bean for sure, but the laugh meter for Johnny English just seemed to falter from one movie after another. The humour just seemed flat.

The action spoof franchise started in 2003 with Johnny English, and returned in 2011 with Johnny English Reborn. It’s 2018, and the third instalment is aptly titled Johnny English Strikes Again. I was hopeful that the plot would tickle my bones. Sadly, the goofy espionage satire failed to generate laughter.

First, the basic premise of the story. A cyberattac­k blows the cover off all current spies at M17 and the Prime Minister (Emma Thompson) suggests bringing back an old spy out of retirement. Intelligen­ce chief Pegasus (Adam James) calls in English, now a geography teacher at a private school.

The accident-prone former agent happily springs back into action to find the mysterious hacker, so off he goes on the mission with his long-standing sidekick Bough (Ben Miller). The duo roar off to France to investigat­e a credible lead.

English is not interested in the service’s shiny new culture of digital phones and hybrid cars, so he does things the old school way — chasing the target in a vintage Aston Martin that quickly runs out of petrol. Without a cellphone, he’s “invisible” to the bad guys.

The plot is straightfo­rward and predictabl­e.

However, if you just want to revel in that goofy face of Atkinson and think you may be amused at his French accent, then you will enjoy the very few scenes that will make you laugh a little.

The only part I like about the movie is watching him as a geography teacher, imparting unorthodox lessons on espionage techniques to students. I would want him as my teacher!

Spy parodies have been a screen staple for a while now, from Austin Power’s trilogy to Melissa McCarthy’s action comedy, Spy. Perhaps the issue here is originalit­y. This tired espionage spoof is less funny. Maybe the character doesn’t do much justice to Atkinson’s considerab­le talent.

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