JOHNNY English Repackaged might be a more fitting title for Oliver Parker’s belated sequel to the 2003 comedy, which poked gentle fun at the image of British spies as debonair gents with a licence to kill.
Aside from the casting of rising star Daniel Kaluuya as Johnny’s sidekick and a prominent role for a voice-controlled Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe V16, Johnny English Reborn could have been shot directly after the original film and left to gather dust on a shelf marked Straight To DVD Some Day.
While the new incarnation James Bond has been playing catch-up with Jason Bourne, Rowan Atkinson’s secret agent continues to hark back to the Connery and Moore years.
He’s out-dated and a chauvinist, dismissing the most obvious suspect for a shooting simply because it’s a woman (Pik Sen Lim).
Action sequences unfold at pedestrian pace – literally in the case of a rooftop pursuit.
A car and motorcycle chase through London looks sluggish even with footage clearly speeded up.
Following a disastrous mission in Mozambique, Johnny (Atkinson) turns his back on MI7 and heads to a Tibetan retreat.
Section chief Pamela Thornton (Gillian Anderson) woos him back to help thwart an assassination attempt on the Chinese premier.
She pairs him up with rookie agent Tucker (Kaluuya), who lives in south London with his mother and finesses his gun skills by playing on his Xbox.
After a meeting with Agent Titus Fisher (Richard Schiff), Johnny learns of a dastardly plot masterminded by a shadowy organisation called Vortex.
Johnny English is an old-fashioned, gently effervescent spy caper that amuses but rarely delights.
Atkinson’s talent for physical humour delivers a couple of belly laughs but the script lacks invention and the dialogue feels flat.
STAR RATING: **