Spy flicks are big business for Hollywood. Ever since the very first introduction of James Bond way back in 1962 in Dr. No, the spy genre has proven to be a cash cow for every one of Hollywood’s major studios. From the mainstream Bond flicks to their multitude of spoofs (and even the absolutely horrible rip-offs from the small-time studios), it seems that there is no end in sight to the spy world. Late last month, Universal Pictures added yet another title to that ever-growing world of spy flicks with the home release of Johnny English Strikes Again. The third entry in the studio’s franchise, this latest offering has proven to be quite divisive among audiences and critics alike. There has been little, if any middle ground in the responses to the movie. This critic is one of the audiences who appreciates the movie, and sees its value. The movie’s value starts with its story, which will be discussed shortly. Atkinson’s work on camera is another positive that is to be noted in examining this movie. The bonus material included in the movie’s home release rounds out its positives. Each item noted here is important in its own right to the whole of Johnny English Strikes Again. All things considered, they make Johnny English Strikes Again a movie that while maybe not memorable, is still a fun flick that is worth the occasional watch.
Universal Pictures’ latest entry in its Johnny English franchise is not the best spy flick to ever be presented to audiences, since the genre first became popular back in the 1960s. At the same time though, it is also not the genre’s worst offering. In fact, it is actually a fun flick that is well worth the occasional watch. This is proven in part through the movie’s central story. The movie’s central story follows Johnny English once again as he is called out of retirement following a cyber attack. The identity of the culprit will not be revealed here, though it doesn’t take too long to figure out who is behind the attack. The bigger story of English being a fish out of water with his reluctance to accept the digital age, and its companion commentary about the dangers of mankind’s reliance on technology adds even more to the movie’s ability to keep audiences engaged and entertained. Add in the spoofs of MGM’s James Bond flicks, the continued stylistic similarity to Paramount’s Naked Gun and Airplane franchises within the story, and audiences have even more motivation to watch this movie. If all of that is not enough, the very fact that audiences do not have to have seen this franchise’s previous pair of movies in order to enjoy this story puts the finishing touch to the argument as to why the movie’s story is so integral to its overall presentation. It actually does a lot more for the movie’s presentation than the movie’s detractors realize. It is just one of the movie’s most important elements. Lead star Rowan Atkinson’s work in front of the lens adds even more reason for audiences to take in the movie.
Atkinson’s work on camera is so important to discuss in examining Johnny English Strikes Again because, as with the movie’s story, it is another of the items that so many critics have derided. The movie’s detractors have chided his work, saying that the physical comedy, the sight gags, etc. have been done in both of this movie’s predecessors. Maybe that is the case. However, the instant rebuttal is another reference to the fact that one need not have seen said movies prior to this work in order to appreciate it — and Atkinson’s work. Once again, Atkinson has taken elements of his work as Mr. Bean and crossed with it so much familiar physical comedy made equally popular by the likes of Leslie Nielsen, Steve Martin and other similar comedians. As a matter of fact, Atkinson’s work is compared to that of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton by his co-star Emma Thompson (who plays England’s prime minister this time out) in the movie’s bonus content. This will be discussed later when the bonus content is discussed at more length. Atkinson’s timing from scene to scene and emoting make for a presence that makes for its own share of entertainment. He never goes over the top in any one scene, but rather maintains that familiar dry approach for which he has come to be known in every scene. Again, his approach is similar to that used in the previous Johnny English movies, but still is adapted just enough here to keep his work entertaining. Even with that in mind, audiences again do not have to have seen those movies to appreciate this work. This makes his comic work here stand on its own rights just as much as the movie itself, going back to that previous discussion on the movie’s story. Considering the importance of both elements displayed here, the arguments made by detractors of Johnny English Strikes Again hold even less water. While they are undeniably crucial to the movie’s presentation – both by themselves and collectively – they are not its only key elements. The bonus content featured in the movie’s home release rounds out its most important elements.
The bonus material featured in the movie’s home release includes discussions on items, such as Atkinson’s approach to his acting, the gadgets used throughout the movie and the shooting locations. The discussion on the gadgets and their connection to the bigger story of English’s disconnect from the digital age gives even more appreciation for not just the gadgets, but for the gadgets used in MGM’s old James Bond movies. For those, such as this critic, who are also holdouts against all things digital, it has even interest as it reminds said audiences that they are not the only ones who refuse to become one of the masses that just give in to all things tech. The discussion on Atkinson’s approach to his acting, which features not only comments from Atkinson, but also from his cast mates, proves that while his brand of comedy might be familiar, it still has a place in today’s cinematic world. That is especially the case considering how much dumbed-down, sophomoric comedy exists right now en mass. The discussion on the location shooting offers even more insight and appreciation for the movie, as it is revealed in this discussion that much of the shooting was done on location, and the impact that it had on reducing the movie’s budget. That understanding and appreciation makes for more appreciation among audiences, as they will see that while it might not have been a big budget blockbuster, it still presents the look and feel of such a movie, and holds its own easily against said flicks in the long run. As if all of this is not enough for audiences, the feature-length commentary from the movie’s director, David Kerr (who also shared his thoughts in the movie’s other bonus content) adds its own share of insight and entertainment to the movie. Keeping all of this in mind, the bonus content featured in the home release of Johnny English Strikes Again creates its own positive for audiences’ viewing experience. Between that positive and those presented by the movie’s story and Atkinson’s on-screen work, audiences get a whole here that while again might not be the best spy flick ever made, is hardly the terrible work that so many would have audiences believe it to be. It is a fun watch that is worth the occasional watch by any family, being rated PG (another key element to note – it is largely a family friendly flick in terms of its overall content).
Universal Pictures’ latest addition to its Johnny English franchise is a fun family flick that with or without its predecessors, is still well worth the occasional watch. It is a family friendly movie (rated PG) whose story lacks the violence and sexuality of the movies, which it spoofs. It also presents an easy to follow story that does not require having seen the franchise’s previous entries in order to be enjoyed. This applies both to the story and the work of lead star Rowan Atkinson. The bonus material featured in the movie’s home release adds its own positive to the whole. Each item is important in itself to the whole of the movie. All things considered, they make Johnny English Strikes Again a movie that while not the best spy flick ever made, is hardly the terrible work which so many critics would have people believe it to be. It is a fun family flick that is well worth the occasional watch. More information on this and other titles from Universal Pictures is available online now at:
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