Rowan Atkinson, Willem Dafoe, Mark Baldry
Rowan Atkinson, Robin Driscoll, Simon McBurney
Patterned after Jacques Tati's "M. Hulot's Holiday", a far superior 1953 film, "Mr. Bean's Holiday," an Oscar nominee for Best Screenplay in 1956. Said to be the last of Rowan Atkinson's films in the "Bean" series, "Mr. Bean's Holiday" is a surprisingly tolerable film even if it does fall far short of nearly every lofty standard it sets for itself.
With shades of Tati's comic masterpiece and even a certain Chaplinesque devotion accompanying its G-rated devotion to physical comedy, "Mr. Bean's Holiday" lacks the ingenuity, sincerity and intelligence of both Tati's and Chaplin's films.
"Mr. Bean's Holiday" picks up with Bean winning a free trip to the South of France in his church raffle. In no time at all, Bean is off to France and, of course, loses nearly everything he has along the way and, ends up aligned with a young boy, Stepan (Max Baldry), after separating the boy from his father and traveling across the country to the Cannes Film Festival to unite them.
Along the way, he finds himself in the company of a French actress (Emma de Caunes) and a delightfully pretentious director (Willem Dafoe).
Despite its rather high aims and obvious nods to cinematic classics, "Mr. Bean's Holiday" is simply more of the same from this once beloved comic character. Rowan Atkinson has fashioned virtually an entire career wrapped around the quirky charm of this bug-eyed, fall-prone man who seems more comparable to Jerry Lewis than Charlie Chaplin when set in the French countryside.
It would be difficult to deny that there are moments in "Mr. Bean's Holiday" that work, perhaps moreso due to the pleasant chemistry exhibited between the characters. Bean and Stepan are, indeed, rather charming together even when their pratfalls do become a bit tiresome and predictable.
On the flip side, Dafoe, as an auteur whose nose seems permanently affixed in the air, is clearly enjoying this relatively throwaway role even if it does seem to quietly symbolize the rather frightful decline of a once promising career. Dafoe's performance may not be brilliant acting, but it is downright funny and clearly the highlight of "Mr. Bean's Holiday."
If only "Mr. Bean's Holiday" had been left to the interplay between characters, we may very well be looking at a "B" range film, a vast improvement over the quite abysmal "Bean." Unfortunately, director Steve Bendelack spends far too much time focusing his attention on Atkinson's admittedly uncanny ability to flex those facial muscles in places that a face just shouldn't go. It is funny once...heck, it's funny twice, however, by the fifth or sixth time of watching Bean's eyes bug out, silly pratfalls, mix-ups of words like merci and gracias, well, it just gets a bit tiresome.
As most G-rated films are, "Mr. Bean's Holiday" is a remarkably tame, non-adventurous and utterly benign comic adventure. While this isn't an inherently bad quality, there are multiple places in the film where the desire to create a family film clearly inhibits a scene's comic potential and, thus, separates this film from such greats as the aforementioned Tati classic and Chaplin's "The Kid."
While children are likely to giggle incessantly at a few of the pratfalls contained within, the film's more adult-aimed cinematic references and jabs at the film industry are likely to be tossed aside by all but a few devoted cineastes.
Much like its predecessor, "Mr. Bean's Holiday" is likely to limp its way through the box-office and into a more fruitful life on home video where Bean devotees can laugh incessantly in the comfort of their own homes.
If you're really just feeling the need for a heavy dose of silly, physical comedy or pratfalls galore, why not go out and rent the real classics this weekend, "M. Hulot's Holiday" or, better yet, Charlie Chaplin's "The Kid."
In the life of every film and/or television series, there is a point when it is time to say goodbye. With "Mr. Bean's Holiday," it has become readily apparent that it is, indeed, the time to say "goodbye" to this once delightfully different character...
Or is that "au revoir?"
Or is it "Adios?"
No, wait, it's "Sayonara?"
Gee whiz, ummm, "Arriverderci?"
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic