3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The Wrong Vehicle For Intelligent Mr A.,
This review is from: Johnny English Reborn [DVD] (DVD)
Rowan Atkinson suffers from having done such great (and oft repeated!) work earlier in his career. Obviously, anybody's subsequent work after Not the Nine O Clock News and Black Adder 2&3 would suffer by comparison. It's inexplicable to me that, after those high points, he decided to major on Mr Bean - which I seldom find funny.
Rowan is manifestly an intelligent and educated man. To me, that means that he is at his best when working with certain kinds of writers and when playing a sane character surrounded by buffoons. By contrast, Johnny English is an English Inspector Clouseau, a buffoon who thinks he is James Bond, but who actually causes mayhem everywhere he goes but somehow muddles through to a successful conclusion. So, for me, this is not promising territory. I thought that they just about pulled it off in the first Johnny English film, because it was well written and executed. I'm afraid they didn't repeat the trick this time around.
The plot involves a murder syndicate trying to assassinate the Chinese prime minister: A plot which Johnny English must somehow frustrate, if the syndicate doesn't get him first! The plot ranges from Hong Kong to London and to Switzerland, involves a murderous cleaning woman, a voice controlled Rolls Royce, and of course endless amounts of mayhem and derring do, botched and otherwise.
The problem is, it's not terribly funny and its very, very, predictable and some of the gags are laboured beyond belief: The rising/falling chair sequence seemed endless! The talents of co-players like Gillian Anderson are hardly used and by the time we get to the scene where Johnny English is to be knighted, you just know precisely what to expect.
Rowan is, of course, highly professional, but it's the wrong vehicle for his talents: To shine, Rowan has to be an intelligent man who is surrounded and thwarted by ineptitude, not a buffoon posing as an intelligent man. That realisation was the essential rocket fuel that propelled the transformation between BlackAdder series 1 and series 2-4. Rowan knows this, he and John Lloyd discuss this in one of the extras on the Black Adder DVDs. This script, for the most part, calls for Johnny English to be a buffoon, pure and simple: For me, it doesn't work, because Rowan's intelligence shines out of him and you can always tell it's an act. Then, the writing in this script is far too predictable and the dialogue often dull - devoid of any real wit.
On the production side, some of the special effects really don't cut it: For example, the woeful blue screen (or back-projected?) close-ups of Rowan during the alpine para-gliding sequence have been cut very short, presumably because they look so poor. It's possible these shots were intended as a pastiche of old Bond movies, but if so, they were out of place in the general tone of the production. Another example: Johnny's sidekick, agent Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya - who *does* impress, by the way), is playing a car racing game in one sequence: Thing is though, we can easily see he is not playing it, he's touching the controls but the game is not responding to him in any way.
The music score constantly veers between 0mph to 100mph almost instantly with very little in between, we're either in Indiana Jones-like "chase mode" or nothing. Kudos to the music editor though, the usage of some of the pop tracks is nicely done - and of course Rumer's theme song ("I Believe in You") is pure class.
So, overall, I'm sorry I wasted 101 minutes on this, Rowan could do so much better. I just hope someone writes him a more suitable vehicle for his talents sometime soon, I'm fairly sure he'd hate to have to do more of this - and I'd hate to have to watch more of it (well, actually, I wouldn't watch!).