British comedian Rowan Atkinson (Black Adder) revives his spoof spy character Johnny English, basically James Bond by way of Atkinson’s seminal Mr. Bean character.  MI-7 recalls English from a Tibetan monastery where he had retreated after an incident in Mozambique, bringing him back into action, following the structure of the latest iteration of James Bond movies.  In line with the Bond franchise, which replaced Bernard Lee with Judi Dench, MI-7 has a new boss, the playtime-is-over businesswoman Pegasus (Gillian Anderson).  The espionage agency has been privatized—a Toshiba sponsored spy agency was a rather clever bit of product integration (as opposed to some of the other more blatant intrusions)—and English is now a dinosaur in a new age.  With no more misogyny, sexism, or chauvinism*, he needs to prove his relevance to a new generation of agents.

Among the new MI-7 staff are behavioral psychologist Kate Sumner (Die Another Day’s Bond girl Rosamund Pike) and Ambrose (The Wire’s Dominic West), who is allowed to be the James Bond dinosaur ostensibly eschewed by the new MI-7.  English is teamed with junior Agent Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya), as he bumbles through a Bond film-styled plot to thwart the assassination of a Chinese premier, leaping from one locale to another.

“Open your heart English and you shall be reborn.” –Ting Wang (Togo Igawa)

The Christian hope, the entire premise of it, is in resurrection.  Without the resurrection, death wins.  All that we do and believe is futile.  Through the death and resurrection cycle, we are freed from sin and reborn as children of God. And the spiritual journey itself is one of death and resurrection:  as our old self and old way of doing things dies and we are reborn into new life and a new way of living.  We become followers of Christ, showing with our lives what we profess with our faith:  to become sharers in the mission of the Church to join in God’s mission of reconciliation.

“I prefer mortals.  Pure, maddening, complicated mortals.” –Kate Sumner

All in all, Johnny English Reborn was pretty thin, with Atkinson’s antics going into overdrive to cover for its deficiencies.  Filled with easy and obvious gags, the standard of humor is set within the first few moments of the film:  they might raise a smile, but the hard laughs are few and far between.  If the movie succeeds, it is based on the charm of Atkinson or recalled fondness for his characters and comedic style.  Basically, if the images accompanying this post amused you, then this is your movie.  If not, you’re in for a long film.

*Apparently parochialism with shades of racism is okay.  It was a little troubling to hear lines like “it’ll be good to have someone carry the bags” or “you clever boy” aimed at his protégé, Tucker, a young, African American agent who comes across as an insecure Kato to Atkinson’s bumbling Inspector Clouseau.