Having already foisted one unwelcome comedy sequel upon us in Mr Bean’s Holiday, Rowan Atkinson churns out another with a follow-up to his 2003 spy spoof that proves you really can have too much of something that wasn’t particularly amusing in the first place.
As with the first Johnny English, the jokes are either non-existent or sign-posted so far in advance you’ll spend most of the time watching the film waiting for it to catch you up.
Director Oliver Parker has a bigger budget to play with than his predecessor Peter Howitt did, allowing for one scenic jaunt to Hong Kong, a motorised wheelchair chase down The Mall and a Bondian finale atop a Swiss alp.
None of this, though, can conceal the paucity of invention in Hamish McColl’s lethargic script, which sees Atkinson’s disgraced spook pressed back into service to thwart an assassination attempt on the Chinese PM, a mission that inevitably leads to him making schoolboy errors, grabbing the stick’s wrong end and kicking people repeatedly in the bollocks.
You have to feel for Gillian Anderson, Dominic West and erstwhile Bond girl Rosamund Pike, their cut-out roles as testy boss, suave associate and pretty behavioural psychologist entailing little more than standing by and watching Rowan do his shtick.
Yet what makes JE2 an especially painful experience is its leading man’s misguided attempt to put flesh on his buffoon’s bones. This time around, he apparently wants us to warm to and root for clueless Johnny – a character who, lest we forget, was only created to hawk Barclaycards to the masses.
This isn’t so much Reborn, then, as reheated and regurgitated. Time perhaps to come up with some fresh ideas – or maybe make the Blackadder movie we’d all much rather see?
Unless the first English left your funny bone aching for more, there are few quantums of solace to be had in these sub-Austin Powers low-jinks.