As the sequel to a mostly forgotten British spy spoof, the title 'Johnny English Reborn' works as an amusing play on words — and is about the only clever thing related to the entire movie. I hate to break the news, but this follow-up to a satire of the James Bond franchise is not so much a reborn as it is a stillbirth.
Right from the opening moments inside a Tibetan monastery, we're made aware of the plot's reliance on immature physical gags to induce laughter. One joke in particular which tests our hero's masculinity by dragging a rock with a string doesn't actually come full circle until close to the end. It begs the question: Is it really worth waiting a hundred minutes to see the payoff? Perhaps, but it all depends on your patience and tolerance to wait that long. And frankly, I don't have it. However, I will admit Cameo's "Word Up" is a hilariously unexpected surprise and well worth hanging around for. But again, we're made to sit through a variety of small chuckles before reaching that one sidesplitter.
Rowan Atkinson reprises his role as the bumbling MI7 agent and trains with a group of kung-fu-fighting monks, hoping to accomplish precisely what the title implies after royally blundering his last assignment. Learning to find his inner chakra as well as endure various feats of physical pain, Mr. English seeks to redefine himself as one of the world's greatest secret agents while Atkinson attempts to reignite his career by reverting to one of his earlier performances. Unfortunately, his usual physical shticks which have become synonymous with the actor as the once treasured, Tati-influenced mime, Mr. Bean, are terribly limited if not squandered in most every scene.
Ordered back to British Intelligence, which is now owned by Toshiba, counting as one of the few witty jokes thinly spread throughout, English is reluctantly accepted to duty by his new boss, Gillian Anderson. Despite playing her role with a flawless accent, seeing her in this comedy had me thinking if she might've been hired for her notoriety rather than talent because she, too, is wasted with little to do except be incessantly disappointed by "double-O nitwit." Sadly, beautiful as she still may be, Anderson is looking like a tired, overworked version of Dana Scully, waiting for the moment to retire from the endless secrecy, conspiracies and the lot of men who stumble upon the answers by accident.
Alas, no such luck for Ms. Anderson, acting more uptight and irksome in the role of M than Dame Dench herself, the script forces her to entrust English with preventing an assassination plot on the Chinese premier. A junior agent (Daniel Kaluuya) still living with his mom tags along for the ride, and his sidekick presence provides much of the film's humor. Rosamund Pike joins the cast as a behavioral psychologist who must be confused on the meaning of career title because she's inexplicably attracted to English's buffoonery. Dominic West is fellow agent, Simon Ambrose, and his appearance is not only convenient to the narrative but also overshadowed by the much funnier Killer Cleaner lady (Pik-Sen Lim).
It doesn't take long to figure out the masterminds behind Vortex, a secret coalition of assassins that kill high-ranking government officials for no apparent reason. Somewhere along the way, the script by Hamish McColl and William Davies forgets a key cliché of most all espionage movies — the moment when the main baddie professes in meticulous detail the organization's nefarious motives. Nonetheless, director Oliver Parker ('Dorian Gray,' 'The Importance of Being Earnest') manages to make 'Johnny English Reborn' into a slick, snazzy spy flick. Yet, the whole show feels like we've been in labor pains for days, agonizing over the inevitable moment when Atkinson will haphazardly save the day thanks to an umbrella which is not actually not an umbrella at all.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment releases 'Johnny English Reborn' as a two-disc combo pack inside a blue eco-vortex keepcase. The first is a Region Free, BD50 disc, and the second is a DVD-9 with a code to an UltraViolet Digital Copy. At startup, viewers can skip through a series of internet-based previews and later, greeted by a standard main menu with music and full-motion clips.
'Johnny English Reborn' finds new life on Blu-ray with a great-looking 1080p/VC-1 encode that delights for a majority of the time but also disenchants during the remainder. Being an action comedy, the picture is full of life with vivid primaries, heightening much of its humor, while secondary hues are equally bold, providing the cast with healthy skin tones. Contrast and brightness are well-balanced and give the video a nice cinematic touch. Unfortunately, they're far from perfect, and many sequences tend to go a bit flat with slightly below average blacks. It's not a continuous problem, but the difference noticeable nonetheless from one scene to the next. The transfer, overall, is very well-defined with clear, distinct details on clothes, architecture and facial complexions, making it an enjoyable presentation for a less than mediocre comedy.
The spy spoof also debuts with an entertaining DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that somewhat disappointingly kicks into high-gear only when the action does. Even then, it's the not the worthwhile aural experience it seems to pretend to be. Rear activity is mostly silent throughout, except for a few car chases or other loud exploits when discrete effects pan into the back of the room, finally reminding viewers they own surround speakers. The exaggerated musical score is about the only thing which expands the soundfield and envelops the listener. However appreciated it may be, the rest of the design is a front-heavy presentation with well-balanced channel separation and precise, intelligible dialogue. Dynamic range and acoustical detail is sharp and crisp, creating a wide, expansive image with flawless movement across the screen. Low bass is deep and punchy when required, but also provides the score with some depth.
All in all, it's a very good lossless mix which adds humor to an otherwise forgettable movie.
Special features are a direct copy of those found on the day-and-date DVD release.
Rowan Atkinson reprises his role as the bumbling secret agent in 'Johnny English Reborn,' and he's joined by the likes of Gillian Anderson, Dominic West, and Rosamund Pike. Regrettably, the spy spoof is not nearly as funny as the filmmakers hoped, slowly plodding through its convoluted plot while relying on stupid physical gags to generate laughs. The Blu-ray arrives with excellent picture quality and a strong audio presentation while a small collection of supplements makes for a decent high-def package. In the end, unless one is a diehard fan of the first movie, there's really no reason to see its follow-up. It's a rental at best.