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Video Reviews

Plugged In Rating
MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Comedy, Action/Adventure
Cast
Rowan Atkinson as Johnny English; Gillian Anderson as Pamela Thornton/Pegasus; Rosamund Pike as Kate Summer, Daniel Kaluuya as Agent Tucker; Dominic West as Simon Ambrose
Director
Oliver Parker (Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest)
Distributor
Universal Pictures
In Theaters
October 21, 2011
On Video
February 28, 2012
Reviewer
Bob Hoose
Johnny English Reborn

Johnny English Reborn

British secret agent Johnny English may have had some low moments. He may have made a dumb choice now and then or even set the wrong person on fire from time to time. But there's nothing that gets to him like the thought of Mozambique. In fact, at just the mention of the place he flinches with the memory of what he sees as his most incredible failure.

That's why he's been at a Tibetan monastery for the last five years: To hopefully cleanse his sense of guilt and remake himself into a better man. That and to gain the ability to walk on hot coals and take a full kick in the goolies, of course. And when the call finally comes from MI7, he can't believe his good fortune. He will get a second chance.

It's not that the new chief, Pegasus, really wants him back. From her perspective, the days of his brand of old-school agent, focused on "the guns, the fast cars and the chauvinism" are long past. But she has no choice in the matter. A former CIA agent is offering vital information, and he'll only speak with Johnny.

What he tells Johnny is mind-boggling: There's a super-secret assassin's organization (called Vortex) led by three men—one each from the CIA, KGB and MI7—who possess very special keys. Put all three keys together and you gain access to an incredibly deadly weapon. But what really knocks the wind out of Johnny (even more than those kicks he's been enduring) is the news that all three men were part of a deadly plot that took place a few years back in a distant land.

A place called Mozambique.

Positive Elements

For all his foibles, Johnny is very dedicated to serving his country. The mistake in Mozambique that resulted in his dismissal from MI7 haunts him. And when he gets the chance to go back and hopefully make up for his failure, he immediately jumps at it. In fact, he repeatedly mentions the value of giving your all to patriotically serve your country. His sidekick, Agent Tucker, is very loyal. And each man risks his own personal safety and reputation for the other.

Spiritual Content

Johnny calls a revered agent a "god." And he meets a contact in a large cathedral.

Sexual Content

The opening credits showcase sexy silhouettes of women, reminiscent of the 007 flicks. A seductress (who's wearing a very low-cut top) strips down to a bikini and entices Johnny to relax with her in a hot tub. Pegasus reveals some cleavage.

When a waitress asks Johnny and Simon (another MI7 agent) if they'd like dessert after dinner, Simon quips, "Yes, you." Johnny adds, "Bring two spoons." While in a hypnotic state, Johnny makes mention of MI7 psychologist Kate Summer's "plump pillows." (She's his love interest, and we get a bit of sly dialogue designed to hint at their desire to couple.) To keep Johnny from succumbing to a deadly drug, Kate passionately kisses him to raise his heart rate.

During a Hong Kong spy connection, Johnny attempts to signal the wrong man—who balks when he interprets the agent's moves as being flirtatious.

Violent Content

An elderly Chinese assassin shows up to plague Johnny at every turn. She uses silenced weapons disguised as sports equipment and small household appliances to take out her targets. (With a "phhhhtt," the victims are hit and they fall over without any mess.) Johnny tries to apprehend this illusive woman, but generally ends up wrestling with and thumping some innocent grandma with whatever's at hand. (Twice we see him banging away at a lady's head with a serving tray.) 

Most of the rest of the punching, karate-kicking, pole-to-the-face violence is of that same comedic stripe. An example: A running joke is introduced early on when a man at the Tibetan monastery is kicked in the crotch … to no effect. Johnny trains to master the technique by dragging large rocks around that are tied with string to his nether regions. Later in the film, we see crotch kicks and thumps-a-plenty.

There is an up-close assassination delivered by a mind-controlled killer, and a man is slain in an exploding gondola car. We don't see the actual kill in either case. So the film's one notable bloody moment involves Johnny getting shot in the leg: A sniper's bullet catches him in the thigh, leaving a red stain on his trousers.

MI7's high-tech gadget expert admits that his experiments haven't always been so successful. He thumps his metal legs and displays a prosthetic hand as proof. The Chinese assassin cuts through a door with a makeshift chain saw. An agent slams someone's head down on a tabletop, knocking him out. A man is hit in the head with a golf ball. Johnny falls from a great height. He slams his head repeatedly into a metal briefcase. Knives are thrown at him.

Crude or Profane Language

One or two uses of "h‑‑‑," a single exclamation of "turd" and several British slang references to a situation going "balls up." Johnny intentionally mispronounces a man's name so that part of it sounds like "p---y." And the throttle control for his souped-up spy wheelchair reads "Fast," "V. Fast" and "F. Fast."

Drug and Alcohol Content

A former CIA agent gulps down a large glass of whiskey. Johnny, Kate and Simon all drink wine with their dinners. Johnny is given a mind-control drug that forces him to obey commands whispered in his ear. (It's stated that after a certain period of time the drug will kill the injected victim by stopping his heart.)

Other Negative Elements

After catching that bullet with his leg, Johnny wakes to find that his pants have been removed (by Kate) so his wound could be bandaged. (He quickly grabs his trousers to cover his boxers.) During a spy confrontation in a bathroom, we see backside views of men urinating.

Conclusion

Rowan Atkinson has made a career out of creating rubber-faced characters with a penchant for finding themselves plopped down in broad, comedically embarrassing situations. But that doesn't mean his spy guy Johnny English is merely an utterly foolish Mr. Bean in a penguin suit.

What began as a series of English credit card commercials and later turned into a 2003 feature film (Johnny English) is now, with this sequel, a fairly balanced 007 spoof. The suave side of the dedicated British agent keeps the typical Atkinson goofiness dialed down a bit, and the physical comedy frivolity keeps the James Bondian deadliness and sensuality at bay.

There are several bloodless assassinations—delivered by an elderly Chinese woman who can somehow make silenced weapons out of vacuum cleaners and golf bags. But it's the crotch kicks, the "oops" pratfalling and "What's this!?" zany malfunctions that you'll find in the trunk of your Aston Martin when the mission's complete.

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