Netflixing: Johnny English Reborn

Did you know that the Netflix app on most mobile devices includes a “download” option?

It’s useful in a few choice situations, such as when you are 30,000 feet in the air, in coach, with no other entertainment options.

It may not be the most elegant way to Netflix, but it gets the job done…much like the particular movie I am reviewing this week. The same movie, it turns out, that I watched while traveling this past week.

Something Amiss

I have never seen the first Johnny English movie, and that one is, strangely enough, not on Netflix.

And when I say it’s strange, I mean really strange, because Johnny English Reborn was only recently added to the platform, likely in connection with the third Johnny English movie now in theaters.

Netflix is often used as free advertising by movie studios. They release previous entries in a franchise to generate familiarity before launching the latest entry. So why put the second Johnny English movie on Netflix by itself?

It will forever remain a mystery.

Rowan Atkinson is Mr. Bean Johnny English

There’s no denying Rowan Atkinson’s acting and comedic chops. His turn on Black Adder was one of the finest performances in television history. And though the Mr. Bean movies are less impressive than the Mr. Bean television run, people still love the character.

And Johnny English is more of a Bean spin-off than anything else. He may be graced with the power of speech, and he may also be a secret agent, but at his core he’s just the result of someone asking, “What if we had Mr. Bean fight criminals, terrorists, and assassins.”

Like Bean, English is depicted as a kind of idiot savant—clueless in most situations, yet able to outwit smarter people because he can grasp simple ideas that they overlook.

He’s also a smarmy jackanapes who is rude and prejudiced and proud of it.

The Story, such as It Is

Johnny English is an ex-spy for the top-secret British Intelligence service known as MI-7. Since his dishonorable discharge, he has been on a soul-searching  mission in Tibet.

But when an ex-CIA agent contacts MI-7 about a plan to assassinate the Chinese premier, English is the only agent he will agree to meet with.

When the reclusive agent tells English that he belongs to a group of assassins known as Vortex, and that they are the ones responsible for the incident which disgraced English and cost him his job, Johnny finds himself flung into a plot involving double agents, killer cleaning ladies, and lots and lots of spy gadgets.

Honestly, the story is not highly developed. It’s about as standard and dry a tale as you will find in the cloak and dagger genre. Mostly it serves to set up all the jokes. Speaking of which…

The Humor

The meat of the comedy is in sight gags. There’s little in the way of jokes or performance humor.

And I admit, some of the sight gags are hilarious. They’re also not particularly memorable. And I’m at a loss to describe any of them here.

There were a lot of things that made me smile, but nothing left me begging for more.

My Judgment

Johnny English Reborn is a medium movie.

It’s harmless fun and never boring. But that’s just not enough to be a great comedy. I don’t want to see a movie that merely treads water. I want to see one that leaps out of the ocean in a giant splash. And while I can say that the good parts of the movie all could have stayed right where they were, it would have been better if there were more of them.

Still, not a bad flick, by any means. And if you’re already paying for the Netflix subscription, then you might as well stick this one in your queue.

It’s at least worth a single viewing.