Prayer Focus
Click here to watch THE HOPE on-line!
MOVIE REVIEW

Johnny English Strikes Again

also known as “also known as “Johnny English 3,” “Johnny English 3.0,” “Johnny English: De Nuevo En Acción,” “Johnny English újra lecsap,” “Super Dzonis smogia,” “Johnny English Tai Xuat Giang Ho,” “Johnny English: Nokaut,” “Johnny English iskee jälleen,” See more »
MPAA Rating: PG-Rating (MPAA) for some action violence, rude humor, language and brief nudity.

Reviewed by: Ruth Eshuis
CONTRIBUTOR

Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
• Adults • Young-Adults
Genre:
Action Spy Comedy Sequel
Length:
1 hr. 28 min.
Year of Release:
2018
USA Release:
October 26, 2018 (wide—544 theaters)
DVD: January 22, 2019
Copyright, Focus Features click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Focus Features Copyright, Focus Features
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Focus Features

Spies in the Bible

Cyber-attacks

Adjusting to modern technology

Copyright, Focus Features Copyright, Focus Features Copyright, Focus Features Copyright, Focus Features Copyright, Focus Features Copyright, Focus Features
Featuring: Rowan AtkinsonJohnny English
Olga KurylenkoOphelia
Emma ThompsonPrime Minister
Charles Dance … Agent Seven
Jake Lacy … Jason
Michael GambonAgent Five
Ben Miller … Bough
Miranda Hennessy … Tara
Edward Fox … Agent Nine
Adam James … Pegasus
Irena Tyshyna … Viola Lynch
See all »
Director: David Kerr
Producer: Perfect World Pictures
Studio Canal [France]
See all »
Distributor: Focus Features

“When only the best will do and no one else is available”

Prequel: • “Johnny English” (2003) • “Johnny English Reborn” (2011)

A hero who plays by his own rules?

This is what the trailers promise us from “Johnny English Strikes Again.” Indeed this is what we get—though I would challenge the suggestion that he can be called “a hero,” because in the name of humor the title character sets a terrible example for young viewers.

The story begins with a sudden perplexing problem—all England’s spies have had to go into hiding due to a major security breach that has exposed their true identities. Instead, the nation’s leaders are forced to re-engage the services of Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) who has become a quietly popular school teacher. Johnny sets out to do his duty for the crown and to make himself proud again by taking down a modern criminal using old-fashioned methods and vehicles to ‘fly under the radar’—not something he’s known for.

Throughout the mission, Johnny struggles to familiarize himself with new technologies without disgracing himself—though he seems completely unbothered by causing disgrace, harm or even death to others—and with reckless enjoyment of his job’s privileges.

Highlights

I’m glad to say that Rowan Atkinson’s wordless acting is at its best in this film, without trying too hard, like his previous films have done. His face is marvelously expressive, he has a charm and ease, and he pulls off some truly amazing feats. There’s good connection with his co-stars and even children. I felt a fond sense of nostalgia for the old days of Mr. Bean and his little teddy bear, with a similar steady pace and cleverly built suspense toward what he may mess up next. Like a warm cup of cocoa, it does my core good to see a talented man’s best again, and to laugh vigorously at times.

I wish I could tell you there is more to admire and compliment… but there’s not. The extent of violence and immorality turned my warm-cup-of-cocoa feeling into a warm-cup-of-filth feeling. Allow me to explain.

Low-lights

Every part of the story, and almost every comedic incident, is marred by unwholesome content in some way. Usually it is gratuitous violence and ‘humiliation comedy.’ Often it is unnecessary emphasis on alcohol or the ‘fun’ (e.g., drug high, fast driving, fighting) aspects of various mistakes or wrongs. And few of the many issues involve the film’s villain! Instead it is the ‘hero’ who potentially causes harm to the viewer. The producers have consistently chosen to use poor taste to achieve laughs, rather than simply using the pure and universal physical comedy in which Rowan Atkinson is able to excel.

If you’ve seen the prequels and trailer, you know that Johnny English can be charming and catch the bad guys, but he cares very little about humanity (is it okay to be amused by that?). In fact, he endangers—or ends—the lives of dozens of innocent bystanders in each mission without apology or humbly facing up to consequences.

If we pause for a moment to look at it as though Johnny is a real person, he is vain, power-hungry, disrespectful and reckless. He also shows direct irreverence to God and government. At the same time, his smile and wit are likable, so youngsters may become confused about whether he’s good and about the safety of his behaviors. That is why I would not take children or even teens to look up to this character, even on a cinema screen.

The title character, Johnny English, fits the Bible’s definitions of the sort of person to stay away from:

“There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” —2 Timothy 3:1-5

Yet it gets worse. The villain is, of course, unpleasant and obnoxious, but this is not who left me gasping…

The English Prime Minister is played by the wonderfully gifted Emma Thompson, however her depiction is highly offensive in many respects. The script is loaded with suggestions that this PM is a shallow, grumpy alcoholic, foolishly flippant about national security, insulting to everyone, and who doesn’t need to respect God. This concerns me because, historically, Prime Ministers have been chosen for their integrity and are generally far better behaved than this—they are, of course, meant to set high standards, as they represent their country.

Furthermore, the specific phrases that come out of the Prime Minister’s mouth are awful. She spits out the special name of our Lord as though it is a nasty swear word. As you’ll see in the statistics below, there are 10 profane outbursts, a very high amount for a film supposedly aimed at families and young people.

Other crime-fighting bosses and international leaders are similarly shown as though they would make extremely unwise decisions that quickly jeopardize the whole world’s well-being. It’s unknown what political statements the creators may have been attempting, but, regardless, I found this very dishonoring towards the work of nation leaders, and at odds with the Bible’s call to prayerfully respect our authorities.

Overall, the spiritual tone of “Johnny English Strikes Again” is troubling. I know that some people would say it’s all tongue-in-cheek and that viewers aren’t likely to emulate the behaviors of Johnny English, the PM or the villain. Nevertheless, it’s worrying that audiences are getting thrills and chuckles from such horrid material. Just look at the size of the list of violent parts! My own mouth often changed from smile to frown to groan, so it was not at all a relaxing movie experience. I’m saddened by the lack of decency and positive messages. There is an underlying mockery of both the ultra-modern and the old-fashioned, and frequent bypassing of necessary rules and guidelines. There are also a half dozen instances of an adult causing children to do deadly things and writers have not ensured that young viewers won’t get the wrong ideas.

  • Violence: Heavy— • garrote attempts (strangulation with a cable) • missile attack at close range • driving at extreme high speed (criminal and deadly) (3) • pistol held to a head with finger on trigger • submarine fires missile which makes a ship blow up • man thrown backwards off the top story of a Double-Decker bus • elderly or disabled woman is pushed out into a road while she sits in it and car screeches to a halt • children using realistic black weapons, booby traps, gun requested, another gun with silencer fitted, murder plans • scary ambush • helicopter rotors strike a person’s helmet repeatedly • punches and blows to front and back of head • man appears about to bite a woman’s face or ear • children are given dangerous items to play with • implication that a person’s head is about to explode (in presence of many children) • virtual-reality close-range use of semi-automatic rifle to fire into abdomen of a victim on the ground • a fire gradually takes hold in a restaurant—screams are heard • man falls from a balcony onto his back on a deck below • and more
  • Drug/Alcohol content: Heavy— • a top leader holds or refers to alcohol in their every scene, implying alcoholism—also orders ‘two bottles of mine and some sleeping pills’ to help get to sleep • A class of students each hold an empty martini glass while practicing a pick-up line • “Let me get straight to the pint” • drunken behavior • wine and cocktails at a bar • champagne • vodka • gin • other party drinks • medication—pills—produce effects of high or low energy states, and the high state is portrayed as desirable • drugged behavior
  • Profane language: Heavy— • J*sus Chr*st • d*mn it • H*ll • for G*d’s sake (2) • Oh G*d (3) • Oh my G*d (2)
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Moderately Heavy— • b*ll*cks • bl**dy • t*ss-pots • a** • “The universe sends me you. [I say:] Up the universe’s *rse!” • imbecile • whack-job • ignoramus • idiot • anti-French, anti-British and anti-English comments • shut up
  • Nudity: Moderate— • man’s trousers fall down and camera sees his backside; woman then covers his front with a large object • focused and lengthy view of a woman’s low-cut tight dress and much cleavage, in multiple scenes • nude statue (female) • nude mural (female)
  • Sex: Moderate— • “He’s young, he’s sexy…” • school teacher teaches students to flirt/charm/seduce • lewd dance movements (male) • comment that hint that an older character “still puts on a h*ll of a fireworks display” • liquid dripping onto floor between a man’s legs • mention of prostate surgery
  • Occult: Mild

Although clearly aimed at children, teens and adults, too, I shudder at the thought of the impacts all this may have on many viewers with healthy sensitivities. Any child would be distressed by at least some of the violence. The discerning Christian viewer will cringe as he is met by hit after hit of crudity, atrocious role modeling, severe disrespect and shocking comic violence. The moments may be far apart at times, but are unavoidable and dangerously offensive to God, authorities and general human concern.

Johnny English strikes me again with amazement that I may once have shrugged off this content and perhaps even enjoyed it, yet now it repulses me. Such is the difference that Jesus makes in our lives, restoring us to no longer ‘call evil as though it is good.’

Final Thoughts

My view of this third Johnny English installment disagrees with some other Christian and secular critics about what is good and what is worst about this film. But on this we all agree: no one needs to see it.

How then shall we respond? Although it’s too full of trash to bring friends or family to view it together, if a loved one has already seen “Johnny English Strikes Again,” we may take the opportunity to discuss it with the following on our tongues:

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.” —Titus 3:1-5a

My prayer is that you too will long for a far greater hero than Johnny English—one who has true compassion, dignity, celebrates all that is wholesome and is able to overcome all evil once and for all—as Jesus has.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments

PLEASE share your observations and insights to be posted here.

Secular Movie Critics
…strings together gag after gag after gag at such a relentless clip that it’s hard to do anything but double over laughing… skips the wink-nudge shtick, acknowledges the silliness inherent in the very idea of a suave one-man army restoring world order, and gets on with the business of being funny… [3/4]
John Semley, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
…There is…a fun comic chemistry between Atkinson and Olga Kurylenko… The film needs better pacing, some funnier set-pieces and a dose of unpredictability… [2]
David Lewis, Hearst Newspapers
…seems almost hellbent on aiming for the lowest common denominator at every turn. A brief reprieve offering some choice bits of lunacy comes in the form of a lengthy scene where Johnny tests out virtual reality goggles…
Derek Smith, Slant
…While the original 2003 film remains the funniest, and Reborn has the best action, “Johnny English Strikes Again” serves as the best showcase for star Rowan Atkinson… Director David Kerr engineers Atkinson’s intricate routines with clockwork precision. …
Serena Donadoni, L.A. Weekly
…The film doesn’t offer many huge belly laughs…but it does deliver a fairly steady stream of pleasant chuckles, many of them mixed with generous doses of humiliation comedy. …This new film will pass the time, but imagine if it had actually been good.
Bilge Ebiri, Vulture (New York Magazine)
… has a few more laughs and far fewer cringes (and stereotypes) than the two films that preceded it. …
Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times
…There’s enough funny stuff here to make a hilarious very short film… But in between all of these delights is an awful lot of filler… [2/4]
Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times