Saturday, May 25, 2013

Review: Mr. Bean's Holiday

You know how, when an American comedian's act becomes successful enough, he gets a sitcom and sheds all of what made his act praiseworthy in exchange for becoming more widely accessible and family-friendly? Mr. Bean's Holiday can be seen as the English version of that phenomenon—watching it made me realize to my horror that, in some parallel universe, there's a Monty Python Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

A cute but never hilarious film, Mr. Bean's Holiday comes off as Rowan Atkinson using a Mr. Bean movie as an excuse to go to the south of France. To provide a semblance of plot, there's also a wiseacre kid who Bean has to reunite with his father after his own bumbling separates them. Later in the film there's even a love interest, which means all it's lacking is a dog or a monkey or something to complete the Family Movie Trifecta.

That all of Europe believes Bean kidnapped this kid is one of the funnier bits of the movie, which nevertheless fails to pursue the notion to full comic effect (e.g. horrified townspeople screaming and hiding their children from him). This may have been deliberate, to keep the film appropriate for young audiences.

I'm no Bean scholar but I've seen enough Bean to know that the older outings (even the U.S.-aimed feature from a few years back) relied almost entirely upon Bean's social ineptitude for their humor, rather than random scenes of Bean lipsynching or dancing badly or similar context-free silliness. There are glimpses of the former, but Mr. Bean's Holiday is dominated by the latter.

To my surprise, Willem Dafoe is in this too; maybe they met on the plane. At the risk of spoiling what little plot there is, I'll just say his character is pretty amusing, but very secondary, and the scene in the quaint French village in which Bean really pisses him off was one of the good ones. Yet the ingredients of tanks, Nazi uniforms, Willem Dafoe, and Mr. Bean could all have added up to much more than what we get.

Maybe I'm just not European enough. Maybe there's a whole wry subtext to Mr. Bean's Holiday that I missed, possibly involving contemporary French perceptions of the English or vice versa. But from my vantage point, it just felt like Mr. Bean's Bean-ness had taken a holiday, leaving a generic goofy kid-movie character in his place.

Star Score: 2 out of 5

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