A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Johnny English Strikes Again is the third slapstick spoof starring British comedian Rowan Atkinson as a bumbling spy (the title comes from The Pink Panther Strikes Again, and Johnny English is in the same vein as that series' Inspector Clouseau). Taking a note from the most recent James Bond films, the plot revolves around an aging English agent who's brought back into Her Majesty's Secret Service but prefers his "old school" methods to modern tech, some of which may leave younger kids lost. Guns are carried, aimed, and fired at people, although English is told that "we don't really do guns anymore" and must sign a liability waiver before being issued one. Most of the movie's (bloodless) death and destruction is actually unleashed by English's ineptitude, for which he never expresses remorse; it's played for laughs, but plenty of people are injured and killed. Former "Bond girl" Olga Kurylenko plays a similar role here and (un)dresses the part, but there's no 007-style hanky-panky here -- just brace yourself for an eyeful of Atkinson's bare bottom in a nonsexual situation. Drinking cocktails/champagne and popping pills to sleep or for an energy boost are presented as a way of life. Product placement is pretty obvious, with vehicles shown to be tech gadgets in their own right. Language includes infrequent use of words including "ass," "bollocks," "dammit," "hell," etc.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN, after hackers expose the identities of every spy in the U.K., the British Prime Minister (Emma Thompson) calls accidental agent Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) out of retirement. Along with his sidekick, Bough (Ben Miller), Johnny uses every gadget and trick up his sleeve to try to catch the hackers. But will the gadgets of the past be able to conquer the tech of the future?
Is it any good?
Atkinson's rubber face and slapstick comedy usually hit young audiences squarely in the funny bone, but this spy spoof is more like a kick to the shin. Johnny English Strikes Again relies on what's becoming an all-too-familiar cliché: middle-age characters who can't adapt to the latest advances in technology, leading to an old-school vs. innovation showdown. But kids may not be able to grasp some of the plot points because they aren't familiar enough with either retro issues (like the severity of nukes being launched) or nuances of newer technologies (like computer server locations).
"Bumbling" humor is often a favorite of young audiences because they feel superior to the character, and that works when Johnny is misfiring with devices they know, like iPhones and virtual reality goggles. But he unwittingly creates chaos wherever he goes, and some of the "so wrong" comedy is too wrong, and it ends up feeling distasteful -- like when Johnny unknowingly shoves an 82-year-old woman in a wheelchair into oncoming traffic. Atkinson's hallmark facial and body contortions when he eats something spicy or dances ridiculously no longer feel fresh in today's comedy market, and Johnny English as a whole comes off as dated and humorless as a nuclear missile.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how comedy can affect the impact of media violence. How do you think Johnny English's violence would have affected you if it wasn't portrayed with humor?
Do you think any of the movie's spy gadgets and technologies could work in real life? Are there any older tools/technologies that you think work just fine, if not better than what we have now?
How do Johnny English and Bough demonstrate teamwork? Does teamwork have to be an equal relationship to succeed?
What kind of character is Johnny English? Is he a hero? Is he an underdog?
- In theaters: October 26, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: January 22, 2019
- Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Emma Thompson, Ben Miller
- Director: David Kerr
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some action violence, rude humor, language and brief nudity
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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