The Johnny English films are a great way to get pupils to think about the clichés of the James-Bond-type spy film. English, created and played by Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean) is the perfect parody of 007.
The third film in the series, Johnny English Strikes Back, is no exception. As the leaders of the G12 are about to arrive for a summit, the UK has been hit by a cyber-attack, which has exposed the names of all its secret agents. The Prime Minister (Emma Thompson) has to call spies out of retirement, including Johnny English, who has been pensioned off and has become a geography teacher. English is as usual clumsy and inept but in this episode he has particular problems with anything digital.
The trailer for the film can lead to all sorts of interaction in class.
The second film in the series was released seven years ago, so pupils may or may not know about the character, although they are likely to recognise “Mr Bean”, which is likely to give them a clue. Depending on their reactions, you can continue to present it as a spy film until they catch on, or if they quickly understand that it’s a comedy then you can use that to have them imagine what will happen in the different situations.
The first 30 seconds of the trailer play out like a classic spy film with shots of London’s skyline and a video control room and “The World’s Greatest Spy is Back” onscreen, then some sports car stunts. Stop the video before 0:25 when Atkinson appears onscreen. Pupils will probably hypothesise that it’s a new James Bond film and they should be able to come up with ideas of what they are likely to see in such a film.
The James-Bond cliché continues when Johnny English appears holding a martini glass, saying “You’re looking particularly beautiful tonight.” Cut to a classroom of schoolchildren in uniform, glasses in hand, repeating in chorus.
Even those pupils who don’t recognise the character will probably realise by now that it’s not James Bond, and the visual gags that follow will confirm it and add in a couple more Bond clichés – the beautiful female spy and the gadgets (the missiles in the sports car that Johnny English uses to get past some cyclists, the inflatable boat he inflates inside the car…)
Virtual Reality Miming
The fun the filmmakers have with Johnny English in a virtual reality mask could make a great game in class, a more modern twist on a miming game. Prepare cards with situations on them and ask pupils to mime them. The others need to try to guess what the mime is doing. It is very similar to the situation of watching someone in a VR mask who is having a very different experience from what observers can see. Depending on class level, the situations can be relatively simple (putting on a coat, eating spaghetti, playing a musical instrument, driving a fast car) or more complex (swimming underwater and meeting a shark, putting on trousers that are too small, trying to drink a cup of tea, which is of course not real…)