Mr. Bean's Holiday
Physical comedian Rowan Atkinson returns with Mr. Bean’s Holiday.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Mr. Bean the fumbling half-wit hails from Britain, and through his comic exploits he reminds us that the English aren’t all the Kate Moss, Gordon Ramsey and Damien Hirst kind of cool.
Rowan Atkinson’s comic invention, along with Black Adder, has launched several popular movies and TV shows. Mr. Bean owes a debt to both the silent comics Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, with a touch of the poetically mute Jacques Tati invention, Mr. Hulot.
Though similar to Chaplin and Keaton’s hapless victims operating in a world stacked against them, Mr. Bean’s mercenary self-interest, his spastic goofing, high-water pants and stunted childish manner may come more from other greedy overgrown kiddies Pee-Wee Herman and Jerry Lewis. And it is undeniably the kiddies to whom this Bean will appeal most.
In Mr. Bean’s Holiday, Bean is the winner of a raffle prize trip to the south of France. Bean leaves London in the summer: a humorously rain-sodden gloom. A bumbling Brit lost in the elegant, efficient, well-oiled machinery of modern France, Bean plays with the universal anxiety of strangers traveling in strange lands, unable to speak the language or even order lunch.
Indeed, pastry carts, chickens and film sets are not safe from Bean’s moronic mischief. One of the funniest scenes comes early on when Bean wanders into an haute French restaurant and cluelessly consumes—shells, eyeballs and pinchers included—a plate of langoustines, a scene of deft, wordless silent comedy.
Bean lands in even deeper trouble when he accidentally separates a young boy from his father and must accompany the kid across the country to Cannes. Though perpetually observed by high-tech French surveillance, Bean is too moronic to be feared by the eyes-in-the sky. (“Relax, I think he’s English,” one security guard riffs to the other.) Bean has his own technological advantage: a perpetually running videotape diary of his travels that makes a surprising appearance at the film’s conclusion.
The film’s funniest gimmick may be the pretentious American director Carson Clay played by Willem Dafoe (goofing on his own Manhattan theater and art-house cred), one minute directing a yogurt commercial and the next premiering his absurdly pretentious film, seemingly composed of an endless escalator ride, at the Cannes Film Festival.
Often quite silly between moments of prolonged thumb twiddling, Mr. Bean’s Holiday is reminiscent of a quieter, gentler brand of physical film comedy. As such, this G-rated goof is a welcome relief in a summer of bleating, belching blockbusters.
MR. BEAN’S HOLIDAY * * ½
Directed by Steve Bendelack • Starring Rowan Atkinson, Max Baldry and Emma de Caunes • G, 90 min • At Century Cinemas Del Monte Center, Maya Cinemas, Northridge Cinemas.