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Mr. Bean’s Holiday
A Lackluster End for a Beloved Character
by Mel Valentin on Aug 25, 2007
British comedian Rowan Atkinson (Johnny English, Black Adder) first essayed one of his most well known characters, Mr. Bean, in 1990 for a limited half-hour television series that ran on British television for five years. Often described as a "child in a man's body," Mr. Bean is the genial, clueless, walking disaster whose addled antics usually leave innocent bystanders worse -- much, much worse -- for wear, but had all-ages laughing at his outrageous behavior.
Mr. Bean made the jump from small screen to big screen in 1997, bringing eager moviegoers with him. A box office hit, Mr. Bean practically cried out for a sequel, if only for financial reasons. It took longer than expected, but ten years later, Atkinson is back in Mr. Bean's Holiday.
Eager for a holiday (a “vacation” to you and me) away from dreary, rainy London, the monosyllabic, accident-prone Mr. Bean enters and wins a raffle at his church. He wins an all expenses paid trip to the French Riviera, specifically Cannes. Armed with a map, some travel money, his passport, a small valise, and a camcorder, Mr. Bean is ready for an adventure or rather misadventure-filled summer.
Arriving at Cannes’ sunny beaches, however, proves considerably more difficult than expected. After taking an England-France Eurostar train under the English Channel, he arrives without incident at the Gare de Nord train station, but gets immediately sidetracked by a wayward taxi that leaves him far away from his intended destination, the Gare de Lyon train station. In one of the better gags, an undaunted Mr. Bean uses his trusty compass to walk in a straight line across Paris, regardless of the obstacles in his way.
Mr. Bean seems all but certain to board his train and get to Cannes hours later when he inadvertently separates Russian critic and Cannes jury member, Emil Dachevsky (Karel Roden) from his son, Stepan (Max Baldry), as they board the train. Mr. Bean and Stepan get off at the next stop, but Emil’s train doesn’t. Emil flashes his cell number on a piece of paper as the train rumbles by but they can’t make out the last two digits. Feeling responsible (because he is), Mr. Bean agrees to help reunite Stepan and his father. Mr. Bean also meets an attractive French actress, Sabine (Emma de Caunes), who’s about to make her acting debut in a film written, directed, and acted by Carson Clay (Willem Dafoe), an egocentric, pompous filmmaker who expects his latest film, Playback Time, to be lauded as an artistic masterpiece.
The “stranger-in-a-strange-land” storyline is something we’ve seen countless times before, but then again, no one was expecting Mr. Bean's Holiday to have an original story. The gags and jokes, however, have to jump and move, impressing moviegoers with their inventiveness. Outside of one or two (or three) gags, the Mr. Bean has begun to show his age. Most of the gags or jokes written by Simon McBurney, Hamish McColl, and Robin Driscoll, presumably in collaboration with Atkinson and director Steve Bendelack, feel old, tired, and predictable because, frankly, they are. Even the better gags or jokes are bound to give moviegoers déjà vu early and often. For example, the subplot involving the Cannes Film Festival and the pretentious Carson Clay is as blatantly obvious as it is relatively inoffensive.
Pitched as it is toward the pre-teen (and younger) set that obviously doesn’t know one derivative gag from another but less so for anyone over the age of twelve, Mr. Bean's Holiday will probably elicit several smiles at the familiar gags teenagers or adults have seen before, and even fewer out-and-out laughs. Given the marginally entertaining results onscreen, it’s sadly time to send Mr. Bean into permanent retirement.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
by Mel Valentin on Aug 25, 2007