Mr. Bean's Holiday (United Kingdom, 2007)
For whatever reason, the character of Mr. Bean has never caught on in the United States. Rowan Atkinson's most popular creation has a small following in this country, but labeling him as an "acquired taste" would be an accurate descriptor. Unfortunately, by the arrival of the second Mr. Bean movie (following 1997's Bean), that taste has grown stale. About the only thing Mr. Bean's Holiday has in common with the TV series and the first motion picture is that Rowan Atkinson still plays the title character as a petulant child in state of perpetual arrested development - a rubber-faced half-wit who makes Adam Sandler's on-screen persona appear gentle and well adjusted. The missing ingredient is easily identified: the humor. At its best, Mr. Bean's Holiday is amusing. At its worst, it's tedious.
This time, Mr. Bean's antics take place in France, where he brings his penchant for inadvertently spreading disaster. After winning a vacation to Cannes, Mr. Bean (Atkinson) arrives in Paris, trying to catch a train to the seaside resort. His misadventures end up with him in the French countryside in the company of a young boy, Stepan (Max Baldry), who is separated from his father (Karel Roden) as a result of Bean's inattentiveness. Bean proceeds to lose his luggage, his passport and money, his bus ticket, and Stepan. He then wanders around alone until he stumbles upon a TV commercial production. There, he angers the American director (Willem Dafoe, getting in on the joke by lampooning his reputation) and falls for the lead actress, Sabine (Emma de Caunes). Soon, reunited with Stepan and accompanied by Sabine, Bean heads for the Cannes Film Festival, where the boy's father is a member of the jury.
The old Mr. Bean was a lot funnier than this one. It's a combination of things: lackluster writing (neither Richard Curtis nor Mel Smith returned this time), a lack of energy, and curiously poor timing for some of the jokes. The oyster scene (where Bean is confronted with a plate of raw ones) is an example of this. Does anyone not see every aspect of that skit coming? Is there anything genuinely funny about it, or do people laugh because it's supposed to be funny? In point of fact, there are a few chuckles to be had in the movie but too many of the punch lines are lazy and obvious and a lot of Bean's antics (making faces, wiggling his ears) feel tired and overused. They may have been funny 17 years ago when we were exposed to them in easily digestible 30-minute increments, but the laughter has since deflated. Good Bean is tough to sustain for a half-hour. Bad Bean can make for a tiresome 90 minutes.
One doesn't identify with Mr. Bean, nor is such a thing intended. We follow him around and watch how Murphy's Law comes to life in his presence. Done well, this can be funny. It was at times hilarious in the TV serious and there were comedic highs in Bean, but there's not a single scene in Mr. Bean's Holiday that merits the description of "inspired." Atkinson is a gifted comedian - he has at times been compared to Charlie Chaplin - but Steve Bendelack's direction and Hamish McColl's screenplay do not show him in the best light. Fifteen minutes into Mr. Bean's Holiday, you suspect it's not going to be very good. 30 minutes in, you're certain of it. 60 minutes in, it has improved but not enough to make it worthwhile or warrant a recommendation.
The movie has a few things going for it. It's odd and offbeat. It concludes with a bizarre lip synching musical number on a beach. The theme music for Hawaii 5-0 makes an appearance for no obvious reason. French actress Emma de Caunes is easy on the eyes, although this is not the best showcase for her thespian talents. Overall, however, the bad outweighs the good. I suspect that Bean die-hards will be pleased but everyone else will be left scratching their heads. Just because something is a major international hit doesn't mean it's going to play in the United States. This time, it's not because mainstream movie-goers in this country lack taste but because the film isn't worth buying a ticket to see. Mr. Bean's Holiday is no vacation.
Mr. Bean's Holiday (United Kingdom, 2007)
Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Emma de Caunes, Max Baldry, Willem Defoe, Karel Roden, Jean Rochefort
Screenplay: Hamish McColl
Cinematography: Baz Irvine
Music: Howard Goodall
U.S. Distributor: Universal Pictures
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