A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this spy comedy is a sequel to Johnny English, a star vehicle for British comedian Rowan Atkinson (aka Mr. Bean). Like The Naked Gun's Frank Drebin, Johnny is a bumbling character who always ends up saving the day -- by accident. There's loads of rough slapstick, as well as weapons, martial arts fighting, explosions, and gun violence, but it's all played for laughs. The sexuality is limited to one brief kiss and some flirting, and the language is fairly mild ("damn," "bloody," "turd").
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) is hiding out in the mountains of Tibet, living with monks, when he's suddenly called back into spy duty: Director "Pegasus" (Gillian Anderson) needs English to help uncover a plot to kill the Chinese premier. With young agent Tucker (David Kaluuya) as his apprentice and a beautiful behaviorist (Rosamunde Pike) on board to lend her expertise, English still manages to bungle the mission, which is threatened at every turn by an elderly woman who's actually an assassin. As English and Tucker delve deeper into the assignment, they discover that their colleague (Dominic West) might be involved in the nefarious plot.
Is it any good?
Here's hoping Atkinson's next project highlights his acting skills better than this silly spy spoof does. Either you're a fan of Atkinson's brand of slapstick humor or you aren't, and if you can't stand the physical comedy or the gags involving him hitting someone he thinks is a villain but is actually a grandmother -- or the Queen! -- then this isn't a comedy worth seeing. And, frankly, even for Atkinson's fans, this isn't an example of his best work, like Rat Race or Mr. Bean's Holiday. A little dash of Atkinson goes a long way (Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral), but an entire film can get tiresome (especially the kicks to the groin) -- even though there will of course be a couple of moments when you can't help but laugh at the absurdity.
A small saving grace is the fantastic cast. Anderson is one of America's rare actors who can successfully maintain an English accent, West is an underrated actor who should be cast in more than a throwaway supporting role, and newcomer Kaluuya holds his own as the comedic straight man to Atkinson's zany antics.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes spoofs funny. In what way does this movie contain the same elements as a regular spy film like the James Bond movies? How are those aspects turned into comedy?
Why do underdog characters, even silly ones like Johnny, elicit audience support? Who are some other cinematic underdogs we laugh with -- and at -- no matter how bumbling they might be?
- In theaters: October 21, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: February 28, 2012
- Cast: Dominic West, Gillian Anderson, Rowan Atkinson
- Director: Oliver Parker
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Adventures
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild action violence, rude humor, some language and brief sensuality
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.