If you've read my review of Johnny English, you'll know that I'm a big fan of Rowan Atkinson (the physical comedy genius who plays Mr. Bean) but seldom do I get to enjoy his efforts on the silver screen due to the underwhelming material he's often given to work with. I have to say that I greatly enjoyed the first Mr. Bean movie but in the ten years since its premiere there have been few feature films able to adequately harness Mr. Atkinson's gift (the only two that come close in my mind would be Rat Race and Keeping Mum). That's why when I heard that another Mr. Bean movie was in the works, I was ecstatic. Surely this would be the return to hilarity I'd been anxiously waiting for.
If you've seen the BBC TV series Mr. Bean or Blackadder, then you know the kind of amazing and hilarious performances Mr. Atkinson is capable of. Sitting though Mr. Bean's Holiday made me wish that Mr. Bean had just stayed at home, not just at home in England, but at home on TV as well.
Mr. Bean's Holiday isn't an awful film (like Johnny English) but it's a sad testament to the fact that no one seems to know how to fully exploit Mr. Atkinson's talents anymore. In Mr. Bean's Holiday it's painfully obvious that people are running out of ideas. The character's first movie, simply titled "Bean," had several segments in it lifted straight from the TV series similar to Monty Python's And Now For Something Completely Different. In Mr. Bean's Holiday, segments like Mr. Bean trying to cheer up a child on the train were lifted from a very similar scene not only in the TV series but in the first movie as well.
It isn't too long into the movie before the script tells the audience that it's run out of ideas by starting to pair Bean up with other characters, first a kid who joins him on his journey, then a young woman who becomes a kind of love interest. Geez, about all that's left is a wise-cracking character of differing race (who teaches him how to be "cool") and maybe a talking dog or orangutan of some kind. In Mr. Bean's Holiday, having these kind of "sidekick" characters around plays out just as awkwardly as you'd expect it to.
The fact that Mr. Bean is returning after a ten year disappearance also speaks to the fact that folks can't come up with a new way to show off what Mr. Atkinson can do, so they just trot out one of his best-loved old characters, similar to staging a TV "reunion" show. And we all know how entertaining those can be.
All in all, Mr. Bean's Holiday does have some good to offer, it's just not as much as I'd been hoping for. There are some chuckles to be had along the way, but not nearly as many or as frequent as you might expect. Scenes like Mr. Bean dancing for coins at a street fair or biking past professional cyclists after launching himself off of a Jeep are very funny; it's just a shame that there isn't more before and after those scenes to keep the comedy going.
I must say that cinematography-wise this is a beautiful film to watch. The colors are vibrant and the scenery is spectacular whether Bean is arriving at the beach in Cannes or hitchhiking on a flower-dotted roadside. As a contrast to the dark, gloomy, and rainy London as seen in the opening shots of the film, the rest of Bean's journey is so jam-packed with luscious colors that it occurred to me watching the movie that many of the individual frames of the film could be blown up, framed, and hung on an art gallery wall. This vibrancy of color makes for a wonderful eye-candy backdrop for the drably-colored, pale Mr. Bean to stick out in.
The fact that Mr. Bean's Holiday is being marketed on DVD as a kids' and family film (apparent from the fact that the two previews offered up on the DVD are for a VeggieTales movie and yet another direct-to-DVD Land Before Time sequel) is another example of folks not knowing what to do with Atkinson. While the film is rated G and entirely appropriate for any viewer, this does not necessarily mean that it is primarily a "family film." Are most kids going to understand the film's resonance with the 1953 French comedy Mr. Hulot's Holiday? Will parents have to explain just what the Cannes Film Festival is, and will kids get the clever, barbed parody of a "Cannes film" Willem Dafoe stars in at the Festival? Will children have nightmares once they realize that a character commits suicide onscreen while the other characters don't seem to care?
Parents, just know going in that this is a movie geared for an older, European audience, so if your kids start yawning part way into it, begging for you to put the DVD of Finding Nemo back in instead, you shouldn't be too surprised. Hey, as big a fan of Mr. Bean as I am, even I found myself yawning from time to time along the way.
The DVD features a wealth of deleted scenes and three separate "making of" documentaries; one that focuses on filming in France, another about filming at the Cannes Film Festival in particular, and the last is about working with Rowan Atkinson and the character of Mr. Bean.
It's a hesitant recommendation that I'd give for Mr. Bean's Holiday. Big Bean fans will appreciate one last outing with a classic character, though they shouldn't go in expecting too much from it. Maybe that's what I'm getting hung up on, that I was just expecting more from the film and character after a ten-year hiatus. Hopefully your mileage will vary with Mr. Bean's Holiday better than mine did.