Johnny English Reborn: Bean there, seen that

Johnny English Reborn
U/A; Comedy
Dir: Oliver Parker
Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Dominic West, Gillian Anderson and Rosamund Pike

Rating: **

Dear Fellow Mr Bean Lovers, did you ever envision a day when you'd watch him assaulting old women on screen, one of them allegedly the Queen of England? Neither did we. Atkinson, beloved amongst TV viewers as the loony-but-adorable Bean and Edmund Blackadder, spent much of his career turning his comic gifts into an art form. With Johnny English Reborn, the makers spend a fair amount of time trying to turn his art into caricature.

Suffice to say British super-spy Johnny English is a slightly smarter and more articulate version of Mr Bean. However, the problem with this sequel to 2003's Johnny English is that the more one watches it, the more unnecessary it feels. The franchise, an obvious spoof on James Bond, already seems to have run out of original jokes. For every somewhat-enjoyable sequence, such as one where he chases a Chinese spy over the rooftops of Macau, the movie gives us several jokes that are silly, predictable or just downright tasteless (like we said, he assaults old women and, yes, this is supposed to be funny).

There's even a Batman-inspired 'reboot origin story', since Hollywood clearly thinks Tibet is the best place in the world to train a superhero. English, who is shown mastering several useful techniques such as having an indestructible crotch, is recalled from the mountains by British intelligence agency MI-7 after years of self-exile following a botched operation in Mozambique.

The agency head, nicknamed Pegasus, is played by Anderson, who turns in one of the more insipid performances of her career. There is more eye-candy for men in the form of former Bond girl Pike, who plays psychologist Kate Summer, and for that we are grateful since the plot, involving a secret group of assassins named 'Vortex' and a conspiracy to murder the Chinese premier, is absolute rubbish.

However, we're happy to report that despite their best efforts, Atkinson manages to save the day in parts. The 56-year-old comic genius may be greying, but his manic physicality and rubber-faced expressions are still very much intact.

In this unfortunate mess of a movie, he finds himself mouthing absurd dialogue when he isn't getting kicked in the crotch, or messing things up, or... well, you get the picture. But despite the silliness and the slapstick, there are a few times you can't help but laugh out loudĀ -- and it's all because of him.

Whether those precious few moments are worth the price of a ticket is debatable, particularly if you were expecting something genuinely funny.

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