Mr Bean's Holiday Review
I want to be as fair as possible in my review of Mr Bean's Holiday so I'll admit upfront that I'm not the biggest Mr Bean fan. I don't dislike the programme - I'll watch it if it comes on the telly but it's one of those hugely popular TV comedies like The Simpsons and Only Fools And Horses that doesn't quite do it for me. I just smile while everyone else falls about laughing.
I like the concept more than the execution. With Mr Bean, Rowan Atkinson has created an amusing homage to the silent, slapstick comedians of the past. The more you appreciate that sort of humour, the funnier he is. However, the material too often lets him down. It's decent rather than great farce.
Still, a lot of people find Bean hilarious and a lot of people were laughing at the Saturday afternoon screening of Mr Bean's Holiday I attended. That's not necessarily proof that it's any good. There was also a fair amount of laughter at Norbit and I Want Candy - some people will laugh at anything. At Mr Bean, mostly it seemed to be kids who were lapping it up. So, to be completely, absolutely fair, I asked the opinion of my friend's eight-year-old son. He loves Mr Bean and he couldn't wait to see this movie. However, as it turns out, he didn't think it was all that funny.
Neither did I. I did chuckle a few times. There are some amusing moments. I liked the sequence where Mr Bean loses his bus ticket and chases after it on a bicycle. I smiled at the bit in the snooty Paris restaurant. I enjoyed Bean’s attempts at busking. When Rowan Atkinson is given a gag he can sink his teeth into, he makes the most of it. I also liked all the scenes containing Emma de Caunes, a lovely and very appealing actress - and the daughter of Eurotrash presenter Antoine de Caunes!
The locations look great too. Like Ridley Scott's A Good Year, Mr Bean's Holiday functions best as a feature-length advertisement for the French tourist board. It's a shame all bad films aren't set in the South of France. At least when you get bored of the film, you can enjoy the scenery. Even the French railway system looks nice. In fact it looks so much more comfortable and more advanced than ours, British commuters might feel like weeping. By the way, did you know the French tested a passenger train today (3/4/07) at 367 miles an hour? Think about that on the way home from work on South West Trains.
You'll have plenty of time to think about railways while you're watching Mr Bean's Holiday. Screenwriters Robin Driscoll, Simon McBurney and Hamish McColl have come up with a terribly thin story. The plot involves Mr Bean accidentally causing a visiting Russian film-maker to lose his son on a train to Cannes. Bean then tries to help the boy find his dad and the resulting road comedy seems like a 30 minute episode of the TV show padded out to three times its ideal length. There are a lot of slow spots.
Worse, the writers - and League Of Gentlemen director Steve Bendelack - haven't managed to milk much good comedy out of their premise. Many, many jokes and scenes fall flat. Very rarely does it seem like anyone other than the valiant Rowan Atkinson is making an effort - and Atkinson can only do so much with third-rate material like this. It's obvious something's off from scene one, in which Mr Bean wins his holiday to France in the church raffle. The big joke is that Bean has his raffle ticket upside down and doesn't realise he's won. Not exactly hilarity.
There's a strange subplot starring Willem Dafoe as a preening Hollywood actor-director who's also headed for Cannes to present his new film. I assume Dafoe's film, which is pretentious and boring, is meant to be parodying something but I don't know what. I can't think of a film remotely like it and I have no idea which Hollywood figure, if any, Dafoe is sending up. Nor do I know what family audiences are expected to make of this self-indulgent movie industry humour. What I do know is that if you're going to show a cinema audience nodding off on screen, you'd better make sure your own film isn't having the same effect.