Mr. Bean’s Holiday
2007Director: Steve Bendelack
Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Max Baldry, Emma de Caunes
here is a scene in the middle of Mr. Bean’s Holiday where Our Hero has gotten himself trapped inside a small wooden shack on the side of a road through the French countryside. He manages to lift the shack a little bit, enough to allow himself to walk, but not enough to get out. So what does he do? Obviously: he wanders into the road, and then offscreen. Suddenly a truck roars by; we hear a tremendous crash, and bits of wood go flying everywhere. A moment later, an uninjured Mr. Bean wanders back onscreen, free of his wooden prison.
Now, this is just bizarre. The entire charm of the Mr. Bean character (and I insist that there was considerable charm to him, once upon a time) is watching the strange way he goes about doing things. He didn’t figure out how to drive his car from the roof offscreen; he didn’t put his swim trunks on over his pants and then take off his pants offscreen. We watched him do it, dumbfounded by his idiot savant MacGuyver ingenuity. Remove that, as this movie does over and over, and what you have left is…well, not much, really, and certainly not Mr. Bean.
There is an extended sequence that takes place at the premier of an absurdly dull movie at Cannes; over and over we see people in the audience yawning and nodding off (we get it, really), until Mr. Bean replaces the movie with the video he’s shot of himself and his temporary companions on his journey across France. The audience perks up, thrilled to be seeing anything other than what they’ve been suffering through. This is a bad move; when you’re being meta, it’s a good idea to know exactly how meta you’re being. Had the final reel been replaced with someone’s home movies, I too would have been thrilled. So, I think, would have been the children sitting behind me in the theater, who interrupted their sullen silence only once, about halfway through, to ask their father when the movie would be over.
I’m not sure why anyone tries to translate Mr. Bean into full-length movies; the first attempt showed pretty clearly what should have been obvious from the start: the character is not suited to it. Even in the original television show, there was rarely a full half-hour episode that wasn’t broken into smaller segments. Eight minutes is about the longest story this character, largely speechless and entirely averse to plot, can sustain.
In a movie with as little dialogue as this one, the ears have little to focus on but the soundtrack. Insufferably, it consists mostly of the kind of children’s movie scoring that would have felt tiresomely old-fashioned thirty years ago. Though there are little frustrating tastes of pop heaven in one scene that features short snippets of Girls Aloud and early Shaggy, we have to deal with the worst of all possible pop-punk covers of “Crash” by The Primitives in what seems to be its entirety (twice—it plays over the end credits, too). And if France is actually as full of generic “world” music bands as this movie makes out, I don’t ever, ever want to go there.
Actually, though, as a travelogue of France it’s not half bad. We get some nice Parisian architecture, idyllic countryside, and, most excitingly, some breathtaking footage of the still-new tallest bridge in the world, the beautiful Millau viaduct over the Tarn River Valley. Much to my relief, too, the writers refrain from the knee-jerk French mockery I’d been dreading. I didn’t spot a single joke along those lines; even the aforementioned boring movie premiering at Cannes is American.
Unfortunately, a lack of cheap French jokes does not imply an abundance of good comedy. I only laughed maybe four times during the movie’s ninety minutes. Actually, “laugh” isn’t quite the word; three of the times were more along the lines of “disgruntled snort” and the fourth was more a pleased smile. And you know what? The first three times didn’t have anything to do with Mr. Bean himself. Considering that he’s in every scene in the entire movie, that’s a pretty poor track record.
That fourth time, though; that was a moment of beauty. At the end of the movie, all the various threads of the story resolved, Mr. Bean spies a glimpse of the Cannes beach (which he’s been aiming for since the start of the movie) out the door of the building he’s in. So he heads for it, oblivious to the fact that he’s on the second floor of the building. In an elaborately choreographed sequence, he steps out of the building, onto the marquee outside, and then across the street on a progression of lower and lower vehicles, and doesn’t stop until he reaches the ocean. And then, in the movie’s final scene, the whole beach breaks out into singing Charles Trenet’s “La Mer.” If you ever find yourself in a position to watch the last ten minutes of the movie, by all means take advantage of it. It’s entirely wonderful, and rest assured that it’s the only part worth watching.
Mr. Bean’s Holiday is currently in wide release.
By: Ethan Robinson
Published on: 2007-08-31