Review: Atkinson, dumb laughs back in third 'Johnny English'

Spy spoof returns with amusing, low-stakes third chapter

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Rowan Atkinson in "Johnny English Strikes Again."

For dumb fun and amusing comic pratfalls you can certainly do a lot worse than "Johnny English Strikes Again," the third installment in the James Bond spoof series, starring Rowan Atkinson as the inept English spy who always bumbles his way into getting his man. 

The world certainly doesn't need another chapter in the "Johnny English" franchise, which started in 2003 and continued with 2011's "Johnny English Reborn." But here we are, and those attuned to Atkinson's comic stylings — he can make chewing a stick of gum an absurd piece of physical comedy — will find plenty of chuckles in this lightweight threequel. 

Johnny, now a retired agent teaching at a spy school for kids, is called back into duty by Britain's Prime Minster (Emma Thompson!). He's gleefully old school, preferring faxes to email, and pumping Wham! songs in the tape deck of his Aston Martin (he scoffs at the idea of driving an environmentally friendly hybrid vehicle). 

That push-pull of an anti-tech guy in a modern world provides at least half the jokes in the film, while the other half come from Atkinson doing a slight variance on his "Mr. Bean" routine. 

But it works, and "Johnny English" gives Atkinson just enough of a framework — the plot revolves around a billionaire tech playboy (Jake Lacy) fostering a worldwide data and securities breach — to let loose and do his thing within the edges.

In one extended sequence, Johnny thinks he's within the virtual reality world, but is in fact causing chaos all over London. Is he smart at being dumb? Clueless yet genius? Sometimes it's best to just shut off your brain and let your laughter do the thinking.


'Johnny English Strikes Again'


Rated PG for some action violence, rude humor, language and brief nudity

Running time: 88 minutes