2.5 stars (out of 5)
The third Johnny English movie in 15 years is just as dismal and irksome as the others, with still-rubbery star Rowan Atkinson in gormless twit mode yet again and looning about desperate for a laugh into (yes, it’s true!) his early 60s. JE is his third continuing character (after Black Adder and Mr. Bean), and it’s hard to believe that he was ever at the cutting edge of comedy with Not The Nine O’Clock News here as his English carries on in such a ludicrous fashion that even Bean would have cringed.
An online terrorist attack compromises Britain’s security and just about every agent’s identity is revealed, much to the annoyance of the unnamed PM who, though they tried to keep it a secret, is nicely played by Emma Thompson in snarky mode. An old-school agent who’s still secret is therefore needed, and Rowan’s Johnny is summoned from his teaching post in what looks, from the outside, like Graybridge from ‘70s TV fave Ripping Yarns, and he immediately has a run-in with three other aged agents briefly played (spoilers!!!) by Michael Gambon, Edward Fox and Charles Dance, all of whom should have stayed at home.
After teaming up with Bough (pronounced ‘Boff’ and portrayed by Ben Miller), the pair set about chasing a glamorous suspect (Olga Kurylenko, no less) through the south of France, as restaurants burn down, low-key violence is kept to a minimum and Atkinson’s shtick gets more and more tired and desperate. And, to make sure that he looks particularly dire, everyone around him is genuinely funny here and there, from Thompson and the cool Kurylenko to Jake Lacy’s Yank super-boffin and Miller, who perhaps unintentionally (or perhaps not) keeps making the star look bad.
Directed by TV-intensive type David Kerr with lots of fast cutting, jokey songs (like Wham!’s I’m Your Man) and endlessly dreary James-Bond-joshing to remind you that it’s meant to be a comedy, this wearying nonsense nevertheless might get sequelised again in about five years or so (or at least when Rowan gets tired of playing it straight in those Maigret TV movies). And when that happens MI5, MI6 and MI7 need to band together and assassinate the old git with extreme prejudice.