Mr Bean's Holiday

Mr Bean's Holiday


Reviewed by: Chris

It must have been on a long-haul flight when the brilliance of Mr Bean, a character I had always hated, struck me with particular poignancy. I'd rather be asleep on a plane than trying to watch a movie. Tiny screens of dubious quality, frequent interruptions by English-is-not-my-first-language air-hostesses, and broken sleep cycles mean this is not how I like to be entertained, especially by one of my least favourite comedians. But, groggy-eyed, jolted awake by passengers needing the loo and with my eyes involuntarily half-focussed on the antics of a man whose contortions and expressions are without bounds, it came to me. Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, all those silent greats. Sod the sense. Sod the language barriers. They were a visual delight.

For Mr Bean's second cinematic excursion, he goes on holiday. Nothing fancy. A trip to the Riviera he's won in a raffle. Video camera included. He has a fixed intention of paddling on the sunny beach, and sets off on Eurostar and Intercontinental. Many Mr Bean-type misadventures happen on the way, of course. He loses his passport, his ticket, gets thrown off the train, busks in a local market, wanders onto a film set, gets a lift from a minor actress, is hunted as a criminal, and turns a flop at Cannes into a major success. And gets to go paddling.

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Each scene lasts only a few minutes and is largely self-contained. "It was always a slight source of regret to me that Mr Bean spoke as much as he did in the first film," says Atkinson. "By putting Mr Bean in an environment where he doesn't speak the language he would have to deal with every situation in a silent way, and that way we would be able to maintain a bit of purity to the way Mr Bean works." And it works well, once you get into that way of thinking. His main words throughout the movie are, "Qui", "Non," and "Gracias" (he seems to think all these are French.) His two traveling companions, Stepan (Max Baldry) and Sabine (Emma de Caunnes), either don't speak English or don't realise he is English.

One of my favourite scenes is when he starts busking to get some money. Bean gyrates inventively to different types of music, but is only when he lip-syncs to Puccini's O Mi Babbino Caro (aided by Stepan playing his 'dead' child) that the locals love him and shower them with coins.

Atkinson also uses the delayed discovery device well - as when he gets rid of oysters in a nearby diner's handbag. But in essence we enjoy the fact that he follows his whims and, when he doesn't conform, it is in a way that makes perfect sense to him, however outrageous. A concatenation of events leads him inevitably to Cannes (for the first time ever, the crew were even allowed to film on the red carpet during the festival).

At times I felt Bean's selfishness was irksome. He would just steal things - such as someone's bike - when he needed to chase a chicken that had his train ticket caught in its foot. But I kept watching, fascinated. As Atkinson puts it: "I don't think he's a nice man to spend time with because he's selfish and self-centred, but people forgive him because they think he's just a child and they just enjoy the silliness and naivety."

I had wondered if, amusing as the character is, he could really justify 90 minutes of continuous viewing. The ending, however, is quite clever, and suggests a triumph of silent film over sound.

Rowan Atkinson attracted launched Mr Bean onto TV in 1990. The first Bean film grossed over $260 million worldwide in 1997 - a remarkable sum for what many would see as a middle-of-the-road comedy. But the key is that it can be immediately understood in any language, anywhere in the world.

Mr Bean's Holiday continues the silent film tradition. It is a major accomplishment for British screen exporting. As a phenomenon, it is near unique at the present time. But although it will screen successfully on airlines from every part of the globe, it may be judged by many as only just substantial enough for mainstream cinema experience in its country of origin.

Stay to the end of the credits for an extra 'footnote' scene.

Reviewed on: 31 Mar 2007
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The adventures of the bumbling Mr Bean on holiday in the French Riviera.
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Director: Steve Bendelack

Writer: Robin Driscoll, Simon McBurney, Hamish McColl

Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Max Baldry, Steve Campos, Emma de Caunes, Willem Dafoe, Stéphane Debac, Clint Dyer, Jean Rochefort, Karel Roden, Pierre-Benoist Varoclier

Year: 2007

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: UK


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