Making the Grades
British actor Rowan Atkinson’s best known roles, at least for North American audiences, may be those of the bumbling, unspeaking Mr. Bean from the TV series and subsequent movies, as well as the equally bungling intelligence officer Johnny English.
In the super spy’s second screen adventure, the anything-but-suave agent has been dismissed by the department after blundering a responsibility that resulted in the death of the newly elected Mozambican president. High in the hills of Tibet, he now trains under the stern eye of martial arts master Ting Wang (Togo Igawa) where he is subjected to hot coals, strict drills and unorthodox assaults on his male anatomy. But all the pain pays off when the new head of Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Gillian Anderson), summons him to London for a top-secret mission.
During his self-imposed exile the spy racket has changed, including the front sign outside the office. Like sports arenas and other facilities, a corporate sponsor has pasted its name on the outside placard—in this case, the electronics company Toshiba (one of many product placements in the film). The equipment and weaponry has also improved. And the department now has a behavioral psychologist (Rosamund Pike) on staff to monitor the actions of the operatives in the field. However when it comes to catching the three men behind a secret plot to kill the Chinese premier, it still takes some good old-fashioned sleuthing. Luckily Johnny’s new assistant Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya) is just the man to help the older agent get that done.
Although the characters from the first movie have been replaced, the script plays out with all the expected comedic interjections by Atkinson. Those who enjoy the physical slapstick humor perfected by this actor likely won’t be disappointed—especially if they stay around to watch a clip at the end of the film’s credits. He’s awkward, over-confident and resistant to learning from his past mistakes, such as when his character repeatedly confuses several old women for a notorious assassin (Pik Sen Lim). Yet there is something remarkably personable about him.
While the film has less sexual content and innuendo than the first spy plot, there are still several shootings and an overabundance of groin attacks. And though the pacing of the film doesn’t always maintain a good clip, the tongue-in-cheek jabs at this genre work in the clumsy hands of this eager-to-prove-himself secret agent.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Johnny English Reborn.
What does Johnny English learn about age and wisdom while in the monastery? How does he apply that new knowledge on the job? What experience can older people bring to situations in life? What does Tucker offer the team?
Why is the spy genre so popular? What elements of the film are most intriguing to you - the car, the weapons, the espionage? In what ways does this film make fun of the more serious secret agent movies?
In addition to the Toshiba sign and the Apple iPad, what other product placements did you find in this film?