Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.
Release Date: August 24th, 2007 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Steve Bendelack Actors: Rowan Atkinson, Emma de Caunes, Willem Dafoe, Karel Roden, Max Baldry, Steve Pemberton, Lily Atkinson
ome may be put off by Mr. Bean’s bizarre mannerisms, unintelligible gibberish, and eccentric face contortions, but anyone familiar with Rowan Atkinson’s now-classic British TV show will probably embrace yet another theatrical appearance by the perpetually-suited, wordless buffoon. This particular story is simply a gimmick to allow Bean to traverse French terrain and wind up in awkward situations, most of which are almost completely devoid of humor and originality. It’s still Mr. Bean, but it has lost the creativity, barely passing as a tribute to Jacques Tati’s “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday” (the film was originally titled “Mr. Bean’s Holiday,” then switched to “Mr. Bean’s Vacation” for American audiences).
In London in June, Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) wins a trip to Cannes, France with a free camera – and proceeds to film his misadventure-filled vacation. His destination quickly gets sidetracked with the wrong taxi, an exquisite lunch, and a kid (Max Baldry) who lost his father at the previous stop of the Eurostar train. In an effort to help the boy reunite with his dad, Bean journeys with him – to Cannes, as luck and contrivance would have it (doubly so when he runs into Sabine, played by Emma de Caunes, also going to Cannes for the Film Festival premiere). Their only clue is a telephone number to call once they get there, except that it’s missing the last two digits, forcing them to exhaust every numeric combination via payphones – made more complex when Bean loses his wallet. The odd couple commences begging for change, performing on the streets, and stealing to gain the funds necessary to complete the trip. Of course, losing his bus ticket, hiking through the countryside, getting locked in an outhouse, crashing the set of a high-budget commercial (filmed by Willem Dafoe) and being mistaken for a kidnapper (coincidentally, the boy’s father is a judge at the festival), delays his progress considerably.
Most of the film is shown through the digital camera he wins along with the trip, which is simultaneously annoying and unnecessary – almost as out of place as the soundtrack, continually spouting contemporary alternative rock music. But Bean’s source of comedy is primarily pantomime, slapstick, and frantically prancing about the screen, nearly always accompanied by music. He tries to muster laughs by doing the most simplistic things with great discomfort and distress, such as eating seafood, trying to make a child smile, chasing a chicken down a crowded sidewalk, falling asleep at the wheel, or parading around in drag, all without any real success.
He’s essentially a grown man with the mind of a small child. Occasionally it’s funny, but mostly it’s immature and idiotic. The film harkens back to the art of silent filmmaking, particularly Chaplin and Keaton, with visual gags and comedy replacing almost all of the dialogue. With the strictly British Mr. Bean planted in a foreign France, the necessity for dialogue is markedly reduced. Unfortunately, it would take a movie much more brilliant than this to entertain modern audiences with a now defunct art form. The fake art film “Playback Time” starring Carson Clay (Dafoe), which plays briefly at the festival, is momentarily more hilarious than the actual movie, only to be forgotten by the atrocious song-and-dance finale. This is extraordinarily unfortunate.
– Mike Massie