Johnny English Reborn has, like its 2003 predecessor, taken a bit of a critical kicking. Perhaps it's unfashionable for a serious film critic to admit to enjoying a film that is clearly made to be an easy-to-watch, silly and very British Spy farce. Reborn is basically a vehicle for Rowan Atkinson's rubbery talents and unquestionable prowess for physical comedy, and while it undoubtedly retreads some familiar ground, is better than most critics would have you believe.
Our unlikely bumbling Superspy, currently lying low after a `balls-up' on a mission in Mozambique, is learning martial arts in a Himalayan mountain retreat. He is summoned back to MI7 to liaise with an informant who will speak only to him and here he uncovers a plot to assassinate the Chinese Premier, sending him on a globe-trotting mission to uncover the truth behind a terrorist organisation known as `Vortex'.
English returns from his Himalayan retreat braver, stronger, faster and with a heightened ability to take repeated kicks to the groin. He is a less desperate character than in his first outing, though still accident-prone and he approaches everything with an ill-deserved but rather endearing smugness.
The film is amusing and diverting rather than hilarious, but there are still a few very funny moments which I will not spoil by describing and one in particular involving an important meeting with the PM and English's broken chair, which had me literally crying with laughter. There is also a constantly amusing running gag where English repeatedly mistakes little old ladies for a Chinese assassin.
The excellent supporting cast, including Gillian Anderson as MI7 chief Pegasus, Dominic West (of The Wire) and the gorgeous Rosamund Pike, herself a former Bond Girl, is perhaps a little under-used, but they do their best with the material they are given. Watch out though for rising star Daniel Kaluuya, who puts in a promising comedic performance as wet-behind-the-ears Special Agent Tucker, who still lives with his mum.
Yes, the humour is rather old-fashioned, with an over-reliance on sight gags and slapstick, but actually feels quite refreshing at a time when cinema releases are littered with gross-out comedies. Not every joke hits its mark, but there's enough amiability and good natured fun to carry it through its 100 minute running time.
Watch it expecting high-brow humour, and you'll be disappointed. Not a critic's favourite then, but as an undemanding slice of good family fun, it succeeds.