Friday, September 28, 2012

Johnny English (2003) vs Johnny English Reborn (2011)

When Johnny English was released in the Philippines almost a decade ago, Rowan Atkinson was, for all intents and purposes, "Mr. Bean", the hilariously eccentric British guy who doesn't speak. Seeing Atkinson in a speaking role and a new persona was a refreshing thing.

I really enjoyed the first Johnny English movie. I liked it so much that I gave it a 10 star rating in IMDB. I actually found it funnier than the first Mr. Bean movie and for years I wondered why the moviemakers were not making a sequel.

Johnny English poster

When news of a sequel came out, I was excited, but after watching the sequel Johnny English Reborn, the excitement quickly turned to disappointment.

While there are some funny scenes in the sequel, the first film is definitely better. The first film has a lot witty dialogue and original, funny gags. The basic plot alone is hilarious: a Frenchman wants to be king of England just so he can turn England into a big prison. The man standing on his way is the highly inept British agent Johnny English whose incompetence led to the death of all the other real agents.

As spoofs, Johnny English and Johnny English Reborn borrow heavily from other films. While the first film is able to borrow and improve those scenes to comedic proportions, the sequel falls flat. The chase scene and the chair scenes in Reborn are hilarious but the rest of the gags are lame. The whole Tibet scene is over-the-top but pretty boring. Same with the hypnosis and the fighting with himself scenes. The kissing scene is outright cringe-worthy in its cheesiness.

Another strength of the first film is its cast. Atkinson's co-stars in the first film handled their roles well. John Malkovich (another actor whom I like) is funny as the snooty French villain Pascal Sauvage. Natalie Imbruglia is likeable as the exotic and mysterious Lorna Campbell and Ben Miller is lovable as the polite (and unlike English, quite capable) sidekick Bough.

Johnny English Reborn poster

In Reborn, Bough is not present. He is English's sidekick but he is one of the well-loved characters in the first film, so it is disappointing for him not to be included in the sequel. His counterpart in Reborn, Agent Tucker, is similar to him in the sense that he's more capable than English and is also a really nice guy. Still, the unexplained absence of Bough in the sequel is a bit alienating to fans who watched the first movie. Also, Pascal Sauvage as villain has a lot more personality than the villain in Reborn. Natalie Imbruglia's Lorna Campbell is also better suited as love interest for Johnny English. In the sequel, English's leading lady is Kate Sumner (Rosamund Pike) who is too pretty and too safe (no spunk like Campbell). Atkinson and Pike have no chemistry and with Johnny English's more matured look in Reborn, they look awkward as a couple.

Gillian Anderson is also in Johnny English Reborn, her character's looks and demeanor similar to her popular role Dana Scully in X-Files (just imagine Agent Scully a little older and promoted to a higher rank). If it was intentional as a shout out to the popular show about agents, I would have been more pleased if they had partnered Anderson and Atkinson, as English would be spoofing not just James Bond but Fox Mulder as well.

Have you seen both films? Which do you like more?

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