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Her Majesty's Silly Service

The only thing I like more than watching James Bond cruise around the European countryside is seeing someone pull boulders along the ground with their genitals. Therefore, Johnny English Reborn is one of the highlights of the year for me. Admittedly, to call this style of humor sophomoric is almost complimentary, but nothing can erase the fact that I chuckled in the theater a lot. A lot.

If you're going to ask an actor to go where so many others have before him, and need him to be perfectly on-point in order to give the slightest amount of credibility to what could easily be a waste of time, you call Rowan Atkinson. In this role as Johnny English, the spy that somehow manages to nab the bad guys in spite of himself, Atkinson excels at giving English just a hair more depth that anyone less talented would overlook. On the Atkinson Scale, Johnny English falls closer to Black Adder than Mr. Bean, which is a strength of the series and makes this movie palatable. Watching Mr. Bean is like reading the Sunday comics--I can see a joke that I understand is funny, but I rarely laugh out loud. English is a character that isn't maddeningly stupid or inept--he's just charmingly unpredictable.

English is also surrounded by a very solid (and tolerant) cast, including Gillian Anderson as Pamela, the head of MI-7 who brings English back once they discover a plot to assassinate the Chinese premier. He has been off the grid after getting blamed for a mission gone horribly wrong in Madagascar, which was awful enough to cause English's eye to twitch at the mere mention of the African country. Of course, he is the only spy able to foil this new attempt, and plunges forth into the cloudy waters of espionage once more. Along the way he meets the best villain of recent memory, the Killer Cleaner (Pik Sen Lim). She may be tiny, Asian, and about 70 years old, but she's still deadly with a vacuum cleaner.

Especially considering the meandering storylines of today's uninspired remakes and sequels, this movie is keenly focused on what it's trying to do. You'll get your money's worth if you love Atkinson, enjoy having fun, or are under 15 years old. But if you have inherent problems with watching one of the world's finest comedians make a getaway on a lightning-fast wheelchair or nail people in the back with golf balls, you should stick to classier fare.


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