Johnny English Reborn
Rowan Atkinson returns as the inept secret agent, this time taking on international assassins
Three put-upon employees decide that the best way to overcome their difficulties is to murder their vile bosses. Comedy starring Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman
Bosses, eh? Can't live with them, can't shoot them in the back of the head and dispose of their body somewhere off the Brooklyn Bridge. Well, in Seth Gordon's entertaining comedy, that's exactly what the hapless trio of protagonists want to do to their overbearing employers. Nick (Jason Bateman) works in a white-collar job where he must kow-tow to his psychotically domineering boss Dave(Kevin Spacey, reprising roles of villains past). Dale (Charlie Day) is a dental assistant whose sexy superior Julia (Jennifer Aniston, of all people) wants to give him a very thorough examination, despite his being engaged. And the happy-go-lucky Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) has a wonderful boss, Jack (Donald Sutherland), who unfortunately dies and is replaced by his ne'er-do-well cokehead son Bobby (Colin Farrell). Aggrieved, the three plot to dispose of their aggressors, enlisting the aid of the splendidly named Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx). But things go wrong, unsurprisingly.
The biggest flaw with Gordon's film, written by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, is that it's not as dark and disturbing as it easily could have been. While there are scenes of death, self-mutilation, cocaine binges and staged sexual abuse, these are played, oddly, for cosy laughs rather than anything more impactful. Still, it's frequently amusing, occasionally witty and once or twice genuinely laugh-out-loud hilarious, which is more than can be said for the vast majority of cookie-cutter product out there. Some of the best jokes are clearly post-Judd Apatow - references to Snow Falling On Cedars and Throw Momma From The Train tap into exactly the same sort of semi-obscure pop cultural allusion that Apatow's films do.
The performances are mostly great, with the exception of Day's nails-on-the-blackboard idiot, and it's the superlative comic timing of the excellent actors that sells the film. Bateman does a superb straight man, Spacey channels the menacing charisma of his early roles into something more broadly comic (until the end, which just becomes absurd and by the numbers) and Aniston is a revelation as the sexy nymphomaniac dentist, channelling male fantasy to absurd, parodic heights. And thankfully there isn't one of those annoying Wedding Crashers-esque character reversals that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I enjoyed Sudeikis as the unfeasibly successful ladykiller (a joke that could have had more made of it) and Farrell, in a brief part, is a riot as a comb-overed sleazebag.
It's not going to win any Oscars or even be remembered for very much a few months down the line, but if you're looking for a bit of undemanding fun with a few really good laughs, you could do a lot worse than this.
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On Film4: 03 October 2014