When asked to bring back a half-remembered eponymous character of a decently funny film from 8 years ago, original writer William Davies broke out all stops in the irreverence department. Nothing is sacred as the slapstick buffoonery takes on the Queen Mother to defile, all the while enabling Rowan Atkinson to make his money-maker Bean face while he pretends to be the antithesis of Bond.
The only thing they forgot to add was fun.
It's the same formula, but satire relies not on formula but well-placed commentary on timely pop culture. In the 8 years that have passed, a better, less idiotic Bond has taken place in MI6 canon; spy satire has peaked with TV's Archer (which is as brilliant as TV gets, so if you're not watching it, get to it); and hajaar re-runs of Mr. Bean in hospital waiting rooms and airports have made us immune to the old pucker face.
To bring the franchise back without so much as an acknowledgment of this seemed foolhardy - to make a film without any discernible game-upping action or comedy is just ludicrous. Johnny English Reborn's tale of a retired English returning to solve the planned assassination of a Chinese premier is peppered with antics and some action all throughout, but none of it makes any sort of impact.
It's not in the way it's been shot, because the film is often gorgeous. Danny Cohen is at the top of his game here, even if the rest of the crew is not. The editing is quite haphazard, leading to a sense of ennui even when the action is going on.
It's still Rowan Atkinson though, and you can't really go wrong with him and his knack for slapstick. The rest of the cast, including an all over the place Dominic Cooper ( I never thought I'd see him top his Punisher role. He still doesn't, but The Wire this ain't) and a weirdly stern Gillian Anderson, fail to play against that manic energy.
When the film moves from Macau and Hong Kong to more western locales, it does pick up a bit, but mostly because the droll English-ness plays nicely with Agent English's inanity. It gets tiring after a while, with a chase sequence near the 3/4th mark that lasts too long, being especially egregious, and the film never actually gets any funnier.
I'd recommend only the most die-hard Atkinson fans to watch this, and that too with the full understanding that except for him, nothing else is worth writing home about.