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October 21, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

People either love Rowan Atkinson or hate him. Those among the former amount to a virtual cult in America — although he has a massive following overseas. Those among the latter — well, let’s just say that they represent the vast majority of U.S. moviegoers. Critics in this country are likewise divided over the comedian, who first came to prominence on PBS via his Mr. Bean TV series, which originated on Britain’s ITV. In his latest film, Johnny English Reborn, writes Robert Abele in the Los Angeles Times, Atkinson is given the “chance to add to his prodigious slapstick abilities a well-honed gift … for hundred-yard-stare arrogance and a withering baritone. The gangly performer can combine the two in the subtlest of ways for brilliant effect.” Stephen Holden in the New York Times suggests that the movie is not likely to resonate with a “jaded American audience for gross-out pranks.” However, he concludes, “As the movie glides along, it may not elicit explosive laughter, but it plants a steady smile on your face and doesn’t leave you feeling molested.” Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle suggests that the spy spoof may amount to “an ideal vehicle for the gifts of Rowan Atkinson, a superb physical comedian. He is also, in his way, an actor with a marvelous talent for conveying thin but blustery confidence that often gives way to suppressed humiliation and eye-darting panic.” On the other hand, there’s the majority of critics who seemingly are unable to bear Atkinson’s brand of slapstick (or perhaps slapstick at all). Peter Howell of the Toronto Star calls the movie warmed over Austin Powers and Get Smart! “Johnny English Reborn makes no attempt to hide Atkinson’s shameless thievery, his lack of invention or even his graying hair,” Howell writes. Sean O’Connell in the Washington Post notes that the tagline for the movie is “A little intelligence goes a long way.” He then remarks, “Let’s pray those contemplating this needless effort show a little intelligence and stay far away from any theater foolish enough to screen it.” And Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News assigns a single star to Reborn, calling it an “airless spy spoof” in which “joke after joke falls painfully flat.”