|Mr. Bean's Holiday (2007)|
|Theatrical Movie Reviews Theatrical|
|Written by Bill Warren|
|Friday, 24 August 2007|
Rowan Atkinson is back as Mr. Bean, who rarely speaks but who leaves chaos in his oblivious wake. Bean has appeared in an animated TV series, a live-action TV series and a previous movie. The intent is to create mild but funny comedies more or less in the style of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and/or Jacques Tati. In fact, the title and a few brief ideas in the movie relate to Tati’s much-loved “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday” (1953). Atkinson occasionally unlimbers his lanky legs in much the same manner as Tati, though it also owes something to John Cleese’s “Ministry of Funny Walks.”
Here, Bean is thrilled to win a church raffle; the prize is a round-trip ticket to the French Riviera, and a small video camera with which to record his adventures. Bean is serenely confident of his traveling skills, even though his knowledge of French extends only to “oui,” “non” and “gracias.” His frequent use of that word repeatedly causes onlookers to think he understands Spanish, but Bean is oblivious of the origin of the word.
The movie is, of course, episodic; given the setup, it could hardly be otherwise; anyway, movies of this type are episodic by their very nature: confronting their protagonist with a series of unrelated problems. Here, Bean’s come early. He’s supposed to take the train from a particular Parisian station to the Riviera, but ends up on the far side of Paris. He whips out his map, plots a route—a straight line—and stalks off in that direction, unaware of the trouble he leaves in his wake.
He frequently videotapes other people, and asks passerby to video his own activities. This results in a Russian (Karel Roden) being left behind at a station while Bean—and the Russian’s son, Stepan (Max Baldry), continue on without him. At first, the boy thinks Bean is an obnoxious jerk (which he is), but they eventually become allies as they make their way across France.
This involves Bean acting as a busker at a railway station, outrageously miming to recorded music, Bean trying to swipe a very slow motor scooter, Bean riding a bike very very fast, Bean waking up in an aggressively bucolic French village—that’s immediately invaded by World War II-period Germans. This turns out to be a yogurt commercial (?) directed by self-important American Carson Clay (Willem Dafoe). He’s on his way to Cannes for the film festival; Cannes is also Bean’s destination, so we know we’ll see Clay again.
In the meantime, Bean convinces Sabine (Emma de Caunes), a charming actress from the commercial also bound for Cannes to give him, and later, Stepan a ride to the shore. The adventures continue there, as Bean disrupts the showing of Clay’s self-indulgent movie for festival moviegoers.
Atkinson is never quite as funny as he seems to think he is—but on the other hand, this kind of relaxed slapstick has always been more inclined to produce grins and chuckles than out-and-out belly-busting guffaws. And “Mr. Bean’s Holiday” does produce a satisfactory number of giggles. Atkinson has a very rubbery face, which evidently he or director Steve Bendelack think is his major source of comedy. Alas, it isn’t; a little of Atkinson’s ferocious mugging goes a long, long way—say the distance from Paris to Cannes. He’s much funnier in a more facially subdued mood, using instead his angular body and stick-like arms and legs to his advantage.
“Mr. Bean’s Holiday” is a pleasant, lightweight comedy, perfect for an end-of-the-summer family outing. It’s rated G, and there’s not a single fart joke in the whole length of the film. I realize that seems impossible in 2007, but it’s true. There are also no jokes dealing with bodily eliminations. That alone makes “Mr. Bean’s Holiday” breathtakingly refreshing for this period. Also, Atkinson has almost (but not quite) no dialogue, another welcome idea; it’s relaxing to find a comic who’s funny for what he does rather than what he says.
No, Rowan Atkinson is no Jacques Tati; for one thing, Tati’s Mr. Hulot wasn’t quite so annoying. And he’s certainly no Chaplin or Keaton. But he’s what we have right now, and he’s good enough to make the return of Mr. Bean very welcome. However, he’s a thin string whom Atkinson has probably played out to the end.
The movie is brightly-colored, with good photography of the French countryside. It’s also graced with a few songs, including the famous “La Mer” (which gave its melody to “Beyond the Sea”), which opens and, as sung by the entire cast traipsing along on a Riviera beach, closes this modest, funny little movie.