Johnny English Strikes Again and so do the spy spoof clichés

If you liked the first two, here’s another. If you didn’t, well you should know better by now. This being the third instalment in the kids’ comedy spy-spoof series says a lot for the enduring engagement of family-friendly slapstick. There’s little new here that Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau didn’t trip over in The Pink Panther, or Leslie Nielsen didn’t knock down in The Naked Gun, but the script sticks to the slapstick schtick.

As the titular agent, Rowan Atkinson again brings Johnny English a puffed-up and wholly misplaced sense of confidence, despite his character’s innate clumsiness and woefully inadequate skills. Far less cuddly and sweet than Mr Bean, Atkinson imbues his spy with oodles of comic arrogance but third time around the tropes have become clichés, and the pratfalls and misunderstandings predictable and uninspired.

The most fun for grown-ups comes in the form of Emma Thompson playing the Prime Minister as, in what passes for a plot, Johnny English is forced out of retirement to hunt down a hacker who has revealed the identities of every undercover agent in the British Secret Service–leaving Johnny their worst best hope.

Director David Kerr keeps it fast-paced fun, with the jokes piling up and the physical comedy crashing down in an instantly forgettable franchise finale. Yet, Atkinson and his fellow cast go at it with an admirable energy, and there’s plenty of innocent fun and giggles to be had for young ones happy to laugh at the self-important adults slipping, tripping and falling over themselves to be funny.