In a world where ‘Borat!’ has changed how we look at cross-cultural idiotic comedy, is Mr. Bean still relevant? Is he still the kind of guy that can evoke laughter by ignoring the scares and the rules of the new century, amidst all the madness, really. Is he still germane? Unfortunately, Mr. Bean’s Holiday is not a movie that can answer these questions.
They tell us that this is the last Mr. Bean movie that they are going to make. What that also tells me is that they should have made a grand final stand and gone all out in the pursuit of funny-ness. Instead, what we have here is a standard gag routine meant to invoke a few squeals of laughter from children, and make a lot of money in the process.
I hate to be a cynic, but this film has neither the precipitous energy nor the manic energy required to be a good Bean movie, let alone a great comedy. I should have been warned at the first oyster gag. This movie plays it safe, very safe, and delivers the kind of humor that wouldn’t make any censor board even flinch, and does that with an ever-growing smugness as the film progresses.
Then something strange happens near the middle of the second act. Rowan Atkinson, the mad genius who plays Mr. Bean, opens up, lets go of all inhibitions, and prepares to give a bravura performance. He is constantly aware from then on that he is in a largely silent film, and takes on the role reminiscent of the slapstick silent comedians from an era long forgotten.
Is that what this film is trying to tell us? Instead of embracing the darkness of our world, is the message to hark back on the simplicity and open-armed humor of yore? Is Mr. Bean going to be relevant after all, if only by reminding us of the simple things? Like I said, though, this film does not answer any such questions.
Except the protagonist’s boundless energy, the film has nothing to offer or say. The screenplay writers are very uncomfortable writing a largely dialog-less film, and have their revenge by forcing dialog and slack-paced exposition into the proceedings from time to time. When the plot is about Mr. Bean winning a free holiday in Cannes and his adventurous, haphazard, trip, how hard can it be infuse a pace that complements it?
Along the way, Bean also befriends the son of a famous Russian movie critic and tries to reunite them when they get separated because of him, he meets up-and-coming actress Sabine (Emma de Caunes), and sabotages the chances of snooty director Carson Clay’s (Willem Defoe) chances at the award ceremonies in Cannes.
Director Steve Bendelack has no control over the proceedings at all. His transition from television to film is not smooth at all, and only when Mr. Bean’s personality takes over from all aspects of the film, does the film come on its own. Truly, it’s just Atkinson who tries to redeem the film, and succeeds to a certain degree.
The premise is thin, the direction lackluster, and the whole film is a half-hour episode stretched to 90 minutes. Yet, there are moments of pure comic invention, and twists in the art form of slapstick comedy. This is something that is not likely to go down well with your sensibilities, but the kids are going to love it.
Self-aware that this is his last swansong, Atkinson takes his clown-like antics to a level where you can only marvel at his willingness to go as far as he can. This is his tribute to a dead art, and a final farewell to the best of his buffoonery.
If you have a child at home, or in your heart, go watch this film. Not for what it is, but for what it tries to be. The truth is that kids are going to love it, and if you can find it in yourself, you will likely have a few guffaws as well. Just don’t expect a comedy that comes from the heart. This comes purely from the brains, even if there is a lack of them in it. Can you say ka-ching?