Johnny English, Rowan Atkinson’s bumbling James Bond character who is a more talkative version of his Mr. Bean character, returns for a third outing in Johnny English Strikes Again, a family-friendly spy spoof whose only flaw is that it has zero interest in the characters who aren’t Johnny English.
This time around, Johnny is brought out of retirement to help the Prime Minister (Emma Thompson, bless her) find the hacker who exposed all of MI7’s current agents. While Johnny is working on that, crossing paths with a beautiful, enigmatic woman (Olga Kurylenko) who might also be a spy, the PM is working with an Elon Musk-like tech billionaire named Jason Volta (Jake Lacy) to improve the U.K.’s internet access. (If you are very smart, maybe you can figure out who the hacker was!)
Returning screenwriter William Davies and first-time director David Kerr fill the movie with cartoony gags, many of them centered on Johnny’s old-school methods vs. the modern ways of espionage. These jokes range from hilarious to irritating, and Atkinson’s gift for physical comedy, pantomime, and facial expressions remains superb — but Johnny English is the film’s only funny character. Everyone else is written and played straight, as in a regular spy movie, giving us nothing to cling to but the story, which is too simple to hold an adult’s imagination for long.