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Johnny English Strikes Again

Rowan Atkinson has successfully lived by the quote ‘if you’re onto a good thing, stick to it’. The actor known for his work on the ‘Blackadder’ and ‘Mr Bean’ TV series has revisited those characters multiple times. He’s also appeared as clumsy secret agent Johnny English twice before with ‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ offering him another ride on the comedic merry-go-round. A 21st Century version of the ‘Pink Panther’ series, Atkinson’s clueless agent returns for another lukewarm adventure.

When a cyber-attack reveals the identity of every British undercover agent, the government led by the Prime Minister (Emma Thompson) is in a quandary. Their only hopes are retired secret agent Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) and his partner-in-spying Angus (Ben Miller). Reluctantly asking for their aid to search for the hacker, the government keeps its fingers crossed English will get the job done. Whether he does it well is another matter with English’s miniscule intelligence an ongoing barrier in cracking the case.

‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ is an amiable farce in the Peter Sellers tradition. Under David Kerr’s strong direction the comedy effortlessly flows onto the next silly sequence. Thankfully this entry is mostly devoid of the toilet humour seen previously. This allows for more wit and effort in creating laughs. That doesn’t mean it’s the best comedy around but it provides a pleasant diversion from the world’s ills.

Atkinson is the star of the show and the script utilises his skills wisely. With his very expressive face, Atkinson’s fearlessness in diving into any comedic situation is evident. His scenes with the equally talented Miller are a highlight with Thompson a solid addition. Their comic timing is superb with the stunts and outlandish action adding to the fun. Unlike the ‘Pink Panther’ and ‘Austin Powers’ series, the laughs are consistent with the aim for a stronger script notable.

Unlike other recent comedies ‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ doesn’t delve into crudity or stereotypes for its humour. It’s a decent mirth maker without being amazing. The third time is the charm in this case although it shouldn’t surprise many if a fourth instalment surfaces knowing Atkinson’s enthusiasm for constantly returning to the well of his well-worn characters.

Rating out of 10: 6

Swinging Safari

‘Swinging Safari’ is the latest film from director Stephan Elliot. Famous for overseeing ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’, Elliot’s career since has been hit and miss. Films such as ‘Eye of the Beholder’ and ‘A Few Best Men’ have diluted the welcome audiences afforded him. Comedy can be difficult to do with everyone’s humour different. ‘Swinging Safari’ is definitely better than his previous work. Mostly forgoing crudity in favour of witty characterisation, the cinematic larrikin in Elliot is still evident with a wink in the eye never too far away.

Fourteen year old Jeff (Atticus Marsh) is living in the 1970’s with a carefree attitude. Continually searching for adventure, he finds it when a 200 ton whale is washed ashore. Sparking interest in the town in which it appears, the whale makes Jeff’s surrounds a tourist mecca. This is much to the delight of a few of the residents including Keith (Guy Pearce), Kay (Kylie Minogue) and Jo (Radha Mitchell). Indulging in the sexual revolution as well as boozy outings, the adults have a whale of a time in an era where taste was a rare commodity.

After the absolute drudgery of his previous films, ‘Swinging Safari’ finds Elliot almost back on form. It still isn’t as great as ‘Priscilla’ but more bearable to watch than ‘A Few Best Men’. This is due to its abundance of charm. Whilst the performances of Minogue and company are ear-piercingly over the top, Marsh’s role as Jeff effectively hits home the growing pains of youth. Jeff anchors the story of love, passion and loss in 70’s suburbia. This gives much more weight to the script where, even in its’ cringe-worthy moments, draws you back into his plight.

The production designer has a field day in ‘Swinging Safari’ with nearly every 70’s artefact lovingly on display. For ageing audiences it may become an almost uncomfortable trip back in time with the decade’s ultra-tackiness alarmingly seen. It also provided a tinge of sadness for the days when young adults communicated better and were allowed to make their own risqué fun. The design does occasionally distract from the often choppy story but the look, music and atmosphere are spot-on.

‘Swinging Safari’ doesn’t always work and skims the surface of 70’s clichés. But it’s clearly the best film Elliot has done in years with a strong cast with his directorial focus seen. Viewers may be alarmed at the indulgences the era brought but it raises a few chuckles which is the aim of any movie embracing the ‘comedy’ tag.

Rating out of 10: 6