Judge Mike Rubino never wants to be on the same train as Mr. Bean. Ever.
France doesn't stand a chance.
Mr. Bean is the pasty, mumbling, slapstick character who has dutifully carried the torch once held by the Great Stone Face, Buster Keaton. He's had his head inside of a turkey, he's wrecked a Christmas display at a department store, and he's ruined Whistler's Mother. And while he may have travelled to America before, this old Brit has never been to France. Thankfully, when he finally decided to cross the river and visit, he brought a digital camcorder with him.
Facts of the Case
Rowan Atkinson has once again reprised the role of his iconic character Mr. Bean in the aptly titled Mr. Bean's Holiday. In his latest adventure, Bean wins an all-expenses-paid trip to Cannes, as well as a digital handicam to take with him.
It doesn't take long for Bean to screw up his fairly straightforward train trip across France. Within just moments of arriving in this new, unfamiliar land, he loses his luggage, misses his train, and gets accused of kidnapping the son of a Cannes Film Festival Judge. Bean's only goal is small: to get to the beach; but his need to videotape everything, and his clumsy and inquisitive nature, makes things more difficult…for everyone.
Stranded without any money or identification, Bean and his new bite-sized comrade Stepan (Max Baldry) must try reunite with the boy's father. Along the way, they meet French actress Sabine (Emma de Caunes), pretentious filmmaker Carson Clay (Willem Dafoe, Spider-Man), and a band of traveling folk musicians. It's a road movie only Mr. Bean could make.
I loved watching episodes of the old Mr. Bean television series—shown mainly in the U.S. on PBS—but I never felt he translated well to the big screen. His first outing, Bean, had some pretty hilarious stuff in it, but overstayed its welcome in the runtime department. Now comes Mr. Bean's Holiday, which should be the perfect setup for our quiet troublemaker. In a lot of ways the movie is perfect for him, but I still can't shake the feeling that Bean is better served in short doses.
The premise is excellent: Mr. Bean is given a camera to make his own demented movie, and is then shoved across the river to France—a country he seems to be wholly unfamiliar with. Because Bean doesn't speak the language, or really know anything about the French, he is forced in to his normal pantomime routine, complete with his usual groans and mumbles. Bean has always held both a charming, caring streak and a completely mean one. It's never clear why he acts the way that he does, but his good and evil personalities make him a layered silent clown; whether he's eating a lobster (shell and all) or infiltrating a film festival with a hand-drawn ID, Rowan Atkinson always manages to make me laugh.
While the movie has plenty of great setups for Bean to do his thing, I couldn't help but feel that director Steve Bendelack was getting in the way. Mr. Bean is a character that lives in the same neighborhood as silent film greats like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplain. In order for Bean to do what he does best, he requires patience and uninterrupted shots. Unfortunately, Bendelack can't provide either of those things. Throughout the movie, "Bean routines," like Bean trying to pose while a passerby films him, are ruined by excessive editing and cutting. It's as if the filmmakers weren't comfortable letting the camera just roll. Another scene, involving Bean and Stepan mimicking each other on a bench, is junked up with excessive quick cuts. The Mr. Bean humor is highly dependent on timing, and unfortunately a lot of that gets fudged because of over-editing.
That's not to say that the film is broken. Mr. Bean's Holiday is actually a very beautifully filmed movie, with plenty of great establishing shots of French country sides and landmarks. If you cut out all the scenes with Bean in it, you could market this thing as a tourist video. The film does more than just show you good-looking French landscapes, it also allows the audience to see the country through the unknowing eyes of Bean, mainly by having half of the movie shot through a handheld digital camcorder.
The handheld stuff is really a nice touch, although, at first, things felt more like "The Bean Witch Project" or "28 Beans Later." The use of the camera becomes justified, however, as it morphs in to an extension of Bean's character. Bean insists on taping everything, no matter how mundane or stupid, and the editors and Bendelack do a nice job of cutting back and forth between Bean-cam and the actual film. The taped material makes an ingenious return at the end of the movie, and really helps tie everything together into a cohesive package.
The movie would have been perfect had they shaved off about 15 or 20 minutes, but it's still an improvement over the original 1997 movie. Mr. Bean's Holiday remains interesting (even when Bean isn't on camera) thanks to some fun casting choices. Emma de Caunes as Sabine is very charming and has a natural warmth about her. It's easy to see why Bean keeps running into her in the movie, and she plays a nice helping hand for some of Bean's later comedy. Max Baldry as the lost boy Stepan is pretty good as well; he doesn't really overact as much as he plays the "kid role" with natural excitement. By far the funniest supporting character in the movie is Willem Dafoe's Carson Clay. Dafoe plays an über-pretentious auteur who is filming a World War II-themed yogurt commercial. The film Carson Clay debuts during the final Cannes scene of the movie is also hysterical—and a great commentary on the kind of stuff that plays at Cannes.
Mr. Bean's Holiday is ultimately a family movie, and it completely succeeds in that regard. Kids will surely run for the taste of Bean, and his weird pasty-faced charm can't be missed. Children probably won't understand the humor surrounding the Cannes Film Festival, but they'll be too busy laughing at Bean dressed as a woman to even notice.
Much like Bean himself, the movie is bright and colorful. The landscapes are all visually striking, and they translate nicely to DVD. The film has a very natural and sunny color palette, and nothing ever felt washed out or flat. It's a very clean transfer. The audio sounded equally good. Almost all of the dialogue in the movie is in French, with subtitles of course, and all seems to be well-balanced in the 5.1 surround tracks. Unfortunately the filmmakers went overboard with the music in the this film. The opening credits are marvelous, and the music suits them fine, but once the rest of the movie starts going the music never seems to shut up. Most alarming was the weird punk song smack in the middle of the film, when Bean is riding a bicycle through the countryside. I say pick a musical style and stick with it.
There are a handful of special features included in this single-disc release, and all of them are worth watching. There are a ton of deleted scenes. Atkinson does a lot of improvisation and exploration during his Bean schticks, and so there are plenty of extra moments of fun to be found on the cutting room floor. Unfortunately, the deleted material doesn't have subtitles, so we are as lost as Bean when the other characters are talking. I was surprised to see that so many of the deleted scenes really change the characters and plot of the film. There is even an alternate ending featuring a different musical scene on the beach.
Along with the deleted scenes are three featurettes. The first is "French Beans," which is a general "making-of" documentary about them filming in France. It's nicely put together and helps explain some of the decisions they made in the story. The second is "Beans in Cannes," where the filmmakers talk about filming scenes during the real Cannes Film Festival. Finally there is "The Human Bean," which features actors and production crew members talking about working with Rowan Atkinson. All three are very well produced and actually have some substance to them.
Mr. Bean's Holiday is a cute, oftentimes hilarious feature-length road movie. It's a great film for the family, and a has some rewarding jokes for the long-time fan as well. Unfortunately, the editing style of the filmmakers gets in the way of Bean's slow slapstick awkwardness. Bean is still a character best enjoyed in shorter increments, and yet each movie the character appears in hits that 90-minute mark.
Maybe Bean needs to use his editing skills on display at the end of this movie to help the filmmakers trim down his next adventure.
GUILTY of making me want to go back and watch the old Bean television episodes.
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