Losing 1-1
Caveat Emptor

Mr Bean's Holiday

I don't know what's wrong with me, but I didn't hate this film anything like as much as I had expected.

In part, I think it was because my expectations were very low.  Not just because the TV series seems to be aimed at 6 year olds, but because the previous feature film (simply called Bean) was so mis-judged.  Transforming a 25 minute piece of slapstick into a 90 minute feature film is quite a challenge, and in this case they got it spectacularly wrong by changing the character of Mr Bean. In the TV series he is child-like, well-meaning and accident-prone, and the storylines involve minor mishaps from which he somehow recovers.  In the film they turned him into an almost tragic figure, way out of his depth and causing total chaos.  However, I have to admit that I seem to be in a small minority in thinking this, because the film was hugely successful.   

It may also be that I have got used to Mr Bean from repeated exposure to the original TV show and animated series.  I have always thought that Mr Bean was a waste of Rowan Atkinson's talents, but maybe Blackadder was never going to make him an international star, and it certainly wasn't going to make him rich (as Mr Bean has undoubtedly done), so I suppose it would be churlish to complain too much.

I notice that the FT's film critic (subscription required) also seemed not to hate the film:

Rowan Atkinson’s inept Everyman grows on one. Like a carbuncle, Mr Bean is unsightly, incongruous and largely noiseless, save for a few strangulated sounds. In his second feature these are mostly in French. (His voice may have learnt this secret passage through silent knockabout from Monsieur Hulot). Yet in Mr Bean’s Holiday the titular twit has become an almost endearing pal. Winning a church raffle, he takes a trip to Cannes, full of pratfalls, prattishness and panic attacks of ineptitude. The good sight-gags help, including a stay-awake-at-the-wheel driving sequence (appalling but funny), a lesson in how to dispose of oysters in a restaurant while pretending to swallow them, and a clever slapstick climax at the Cannes Film Festival.

Bean’s insularity is the joke. The miracle – also a joke – is that this skit on twerpy Englishness has become a worldwide phenomenon. Bean is global, while Atkinson’s funnier TV creation, Blackadder, never got beyond Dover. Reason: you need to translate the latter’s transports of ornate sarcasm, while Bean needs no interpreter. This Home Counties nitwit, inseparable from his tie, patched-elbows jacket and look of button-bright idiocy, was surely swept off the floor of a minor public school. Bean is so throttled with nerdy diffidence that he has developed its opposite as an antibody. He has become a dangerous lunatic, no less surreally at home – a second home – in his flair for unwitting maladroitness edging into witting malice.

Well, I wouldn't quite go that far, but certainly this is better than the first film and shows a far lighter touch that is more in keeping with the character from the TV series.  There is a storyline of sorts, as Bean travels from London to Cannes, but it's mainly an excuse for a series of set pieces.  The BBFC gave it a U certificate but attached the warning that it "contains irresponsible behaviour".  Well, that's the whole point of Mr Bean, isn't it?  No-one seems to come any harm as a result of Mr Bean's stupidity.

Having said all of that, this is a deeply silly and inconsequential film, and most of the jokes are neither original nor particularly funny.  I certainly wouldn't choose to go and watch this film, but if you find yourself dragged along then there's some very nice French countryside and scenery, and some trains, and, er, that's it.

Comments

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weenie

I still find Mr Bean's short sketches funny, but I'm not sure if I could sit through an entire film. I do like Rowan Atkinson but find him far funnier in Blackadder mode.

phiz

I too did not find this as appalling as I expected, having entered with rockbottom expectations. I liked the contrast between the worst of British (rainy day raffle in a church hall) vs lovely lovely French countryside.

The real question is: which series of Blackadder was the best? The correct answer is Series 2.

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