Johnny English Strikes Again (2018): ‘Rowan Atkinson’s Grumble against Technology’ – A Film Review



So first we had James Bond, then we had parodies and eventually Rowan Atkinson through his take on this with Johnny English to reasonable success. Johnny English Strikes Again follows a seven-year absence for the character since 2011’s Johnny English Reborn. These comedies may be nothing more than a ‘shotgun comedy’ (concept + star and rush it out) with Rowan Atkinson but he certainly manages enough charm and a mixture of stupidity and cunning, to pull it off. Wrapped in slapstick with a parody tone that sets Johnny English as the unfortunate buffoon within a world smarter than he is, as opposed to James Bonds superiority to those around him; the third installment should be no surprises in this tone.


The Comedy

Johnny English Strikes Again layers on thick levels of its apparent theme of new versus old technology. This superficially explored theme feels like a backdrop to the proceedings whilst coming from a place that lacks depth. As if someone, who begrudgingly doesn’t like new technology, wishes to grumble about it, but hasn’t really explored it as an issue. This can be fitting for a young audience but feels really spoon fed and dumbed down all the same. This is partnered with the comedy set up that’s repeated so often in the film: set up a scene, plant how Johnny English is going to become a fool in it and wait before playing it out. It’s incredibly predictable and repetitive it actually detracts from the characters to the point that they’re no longer relatable.


The Saving Graces…

It’s a real shame because the actors certainly have charm and the ability to really pull the script through, but they’ve made it such a heavy burden for them. Rowan Atkinson has the worst cross to bear and, despite his likeability, his performance struggles to keep any authenticity in the face of everything that goes wrong, all a stretch for the character. Others fare much better, Emma Thompson particularly rides her caricature well; whilst Olga Kurylenko and Ben Miller have a much better position with their characters but they still lack depth. Unfortunately, this is also framed through a not particularly technically proficient filmmaking, with CGI moments verging on the completely obvious.



It manages to make the film an afterthought, whilst striving for the lowest amount of comedy possible. A few smiles and then you’re done and asking why they’d even bothered – which is evident they didn’t really. The actors try to have their fun with it, but Johnny English Strikes Again doesn’t amount to much. Unfortunately, the seven years between films had not helped them to refine their ideas for an impressive last ride.



A cyber-attack on parliament causes MI7 to look to their retired agents to be able to solve the case as they’re the only ones without a digital footprint – like Johnny English.





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A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.


Films Mentioned

Johnny English (d. Peter Howitt UK/France/USA 2003)

Johnny English Reborn (d. Oliver Parker UK/France/USA 2011)

Johnny English Strikes Again (d. David Kerr UK/France/USA 2018)


Further Reading

Official Site

Interview with Rowan Atkinson

Interview with Ben Miller

Interview with David Kerr

Behind the Scenes

Five Facts

The Problems with Comedies According to Judd Apatow

Why Movie Comedies are Struggling?


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This was an analytical review of….


Johnny English Strikes Again (d. David Kerr UK/France/USA 2018)



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