Daily Archives: January 20, 2020

Johnny English Strikes Again (2018)

*. The third (and hopefully final) part in what was a well-spaced out trilogy of Johnny English films, following up Johnny English (2003) and Johnny English Reborn (2011).
*. The dates help explain something interesting that I adverted to in my notes on the previous entry. When we first met Johnny he was a sort of Austin Powers clone, sending up the James Bond genre, albeit without all the references to the swinging ’60s. By the time we get to this film, however, a note of generational satire can be introduced. Johnny isn’t some revived refugee from the psychedelic age but a holdout from the analog ’80s. In other words, he’s a man of roughly my own age. It’s scary, but I found I could relate to him.
*. There seems to be a rule of thumb for how long things (including opinions, and people) that were once cool can be forgotten about before being laughed at. I think it usually runs about 25 years. So now (2018) someone who won’t use a cell phone or drive an electric car is a dinosaur and object of ridicule. The retro soundtrack is something that still has a bit of coolness attached to it, but Johnny’s mix-tape is actually a tape and as for Wham! they were always kind of silly anyway.
*. This analog vs. digital theme would work better, however, if we could ever believe that Johnny had been cool in the ’80s, and I can’t. He’s always been a spy nerd and can’t really be identified with the pop culture of that decade. So the satire doesn’t have anywhere to go, running out of gas as quickly as his Aston Martin.
*. As usual the plot is just kind of there to hang gags on. A character named Sebastian Lynch is introduced early and then simply dropped. I lost whatever connection he was supposed to have to the proceedings. The real villain then turns out to be yet another tech billionaire dreaming of a global takeover. When I bothered to think about it, his plot seemed redundant to me. Wouldn’t he become wealthier and more powerful just by letting the various states he’s dealing with do their own thing while he does his? Why bother making himself their visible overlord? He already runs the world so what more does he have to gain?
*. The gags themselves are crudely introduced (on the commentary director David Kerr says they’re announed with a klaxon) and play out in a way that leads to predictable chaos. The results are genial without being all that funny. Peter Bradshaw’s final verdict on it was “Pretty moderate stuff.” My own notes ended with the line “mildly amusing.” Even the generic title signals a sense of fatigue. After three of these movies, all of which I felt about the same toward, I probably shouldn’t have been expecting anything more, or less.