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Mr. Bean’s Holiday (A Movie Review)


Mr. Bean’s Holiday

Starring Rowan Atkinson, Emma de Caunes, Max Baldry, Willem Defoe, Karel Roden, Jean Rochefort, Steve Pemberton, Lily Atkinson, Preston Nyman, Sharlit Deyzac, Francois Touch and Julie Fournier.

Screenplay by Hamish McColl.

Directed by Steve Bendelack.

Distributed by Universal Pictures. 85 minutes. Rated G.

Either you like Rowan Atkinson’s long-running role of Mr. Bean or you don’t. Some people consider Bean to be a masterpiece of slapstick humor (isn’t that an oxymoron?) while others consider him to be arguably the most annoying character in movie history.

In fact, I saw this screening with my sister – a Bean neophyte who was lured to the film by the promise of beautiful French scenery – and at one point she turned to me and asked me if the character is supposed to be mentally challenged.

Though I don’t believe he is, it’s not an unreasonable question.

Rowan Atkinson’s man-child characterization puts the simple into the word simpleton. He is a one-man wrecking crew, creating havoc everywhere he goes while tripping over every obstacle which life puts in his way. It is almost a mime performance. Bean grunts a lot and makes odd noises, but almost never forms a complete sentence. Occasionally he will talk, in a gruff voice which is always a shock for such a childish character. 

Still, the original British series of Mr. Bean became a smash hit when it debuted in 1990 on the BBC and later crossed the pond to become a PBS pledge-drive favorite. In 1997 they brought Bean to the US and the multiplexes with Bean (which played Bean off of slow-burn specialist Peter MacNicol as an American art museum curator), but the film was a popular and critical failure.

Amazingly Bean was a character which was created by Atkinson with wonderfully smart and literate British screenwriter Richard Curtis (of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Love Actually fame). Though Curtis did contribute to the last Bean movie, he has wisely jumped ship here.

Of course, a decade on from the movie Bean and even longer since the British TV series, one has to wonder who has really been waiting for this follow-up on the character – with the possible exception of Atkinson’s accountant. 

However, here the film is in theaters (though I’d guess if you blink you will miss it in the multiplexes). So the question has to be, is there any reason to see it? 

Mr. Bean’s Holiday is very loosely based on Jacques Tati’s classic French comedy Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (Mr. Hulot’s Holiday) – although that is in the same way thatAmanda Bynes‘ She’s the Man was based on Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night. A vaguely similar storyline and title does not constitute a remake. 

The story – what little there is here – has Bean winning a contest for an all-expenses paid train trip to the south of France and then wreaking havoc on the entire country as he misses the train and tries vainly to get to the beach. He inadvertently (Bean does everything inadvertently) separates a cute young boy (Max Baldry) from his father and Bean tries in his ineffectual way to get the kid to Cannes to reunite them. 

Along the way he meets a beautiful French wannabe actress (Emma de Caunes) who is shockingly tolerant of this odd, grunting man and a pretentiously artistic American writer/director/actor (Willem Dafoe). You have to wonder how real actors – like Dafoe, de Caunes and legendary French actor Jean Rochefort, who has a nothing role as a maitre d’ – ever got dragged into this mess. 

There are several real laughs strewn around Mr. Bean’s Holiday – many of them provided by Dafoe’s self-centered film director – and my sister was glad to find that the scenery is, indeed, stunning (though too much of it was hard to see because it was supposed to be filmed by Bean with a shaky video camera). It is also, shockingly, one of the only G-rated films in recent memory which is not made for kids, though kids quite probably would find Bean’s simpleton shtick funnier than adults. 

Mr. Bean’s Holiday isn’t even as funny as Bean was. Still, if you are a fan and you really have to see this, just wait the few weeks before it inevitably comes out on video.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2007 All rights reserved. Posted: August 25, 2007.

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