After a disastrous mission in Mozambique, disgraced spy Johnny English (Atkinson) joined a Himalayan monastery. But MI7 boss Pegasus (Anderson) calls him back into service, and soon he stumbles into a nefarious plan to assassinate China's prime minister. But he's also of course causing havoc. Now the lead suspect, only the agency's sexy shrink Kate (Pike) and his sidekick Tucker (Kaluuya) still have faith in him. And as the murderous plot unfurls at a mountain-top Swiss hideaway, English makes a daring attempt to save the world and clear his name.
Much more of a Bond spoof than the previous movie, scenes are packed with gadgetry, double-agents, hot women and dashing spies, all played dead-straight, even as things get increasingly ridiculous. The narrative is a halfhearted pastiche that leaves the film completely bereft of tension, so the enjoyment comes in watching the other characters react to - or more likely try to ignore - English's slapstick goofiness.
While the filmmakers often resort to cheap laughs, they also create some sublimely funny set pieces. A scene around a boardroom table with a malfunctioning chair is so simple that it's genius, as is a fight between English's left and right sides. More ambitious is a hilarious sendup of rooftop free-running chases. Even so, the action gags are only mildly amusing, mainly because there's no suspense, and the romantic moments are a little embarrassing. Although a post-credits clip adds a touch of deranged charm.
It helps that the film is shot in a slick blockbuster style that mimics Bond/Bourne-style thrillers in inventively nutty ways. Nods to other movies (from a scene in a casino to Lim's tenacious assassin-cleaner) keep us chuckling, mainly because the approach is so unapologetically silly. In the end, the weak plot and general zaniness wear us out before the climactic action scene and comical epilogue. But at least this time around we leave the cinema with a smile on our faces.
Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Friday 21st October 2011
Box Office USA: $8.3M
Box Office Worldwide: $163.4M
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: Universal Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 39%
Fresh: 34 Rotten: 53
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Director: Oliver Parker
Screenwriter: Hamish McColl
Starring: Rowan Atkinson as Johnny English, Dominic West as Ambrose, Gillian Anderson as Pamela Thornton (aka. Pegasus: Head of MI7), Rosamund Pike as Kate, Roger Barclay as Agent Two, Stephen Campbell Moore as Prime Minister
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