If Charlie Chaplin came back to life today, he’d probably be Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean, no doubt about it. The master of many faces and a bountiful bag of body language tricks where words exist as mere secondary reference points if at all, Atkinson outdoes even himself this time around in Steve Bendelack’s delightfully catastrophic road movie, Mr. Bean’s Holiday.
Atkinson lightens up Bean’s small screen mean streak persona with prank attitude, for a somewhat more endearing nitwit in this film, prone to always miraculously relieved bouts of bad luck after winning a free trip to the French Riviera at a raffle drawing. Bean bolts for Paris with his video camera, and not much else. That is, aside from his knowledge of the French language that he’s confident will see him through – and in a most peculiar way it does with three words he thinks he’s mastered – oui, non and gracias.
Following Bean’s faceoff against French cuisine, when he basically just concedes and swallows snails whole – shell, eyeballs and whatnot – he hops a train headed to the Cannes Film Festival. Along the way, Bean inadvertently, of course, separates a Russian father and Festival jury member from his son, the resourceful if bratty Stepan (Max Baldry), while they’re all boarding a train. With Stepan’s dad waylaid in a panic at the train station, Bean adopts the disgruntled kid in an emergency, as a kind of really resented surrogate parent on board.
When Bean subsequently loses his wallet and passport as well, the pair has to improvise to make their way to Cannes by train, bus, hiking, hitching, a foiled bicycle-jacking, chasing after a street chicken who’s absconded with Bean’s bus ticket, and road running while locked in an outhouse. But the biggest laugh-out-loud moment along the way is Bean’s urgent bid for spare change in a French square, where he alternately performs diva opera and excels in amazing cool moves dirty dancing to hip hop in his single seedy business suit, and wows the crowd.
The zaniness continues to accelerate along the road to Cannes, as Bean stumbles across a movie set where he’s recruited and suited up as a Nazi officer. He also succumbs to a crush on a fetching actress there (Emma de Caunes), who drives them to Cannes to the soundtrack of Easy Rider, after swiping some female cross-dressing items from the wardrobe department for illegal infiltration into the Festival.
And in an uproarious menu of multiple finales, Bean dresses nicely down to size an outrageously egotistical director of a film within this film (Willem Dafoe), and then leads the entire cast of his own film in a triumphant chorus that seems to have wandered in from some other movie. Oh, and finally fulfills his dream of hitting the beaches of the French Riviera, even if Bean has to walk over buses and a snoozing bather’s belly on shore to get there. Mr. Bean’s Holiday has got to be one of the best vacations on record, however vicarious, for the entire audience.
Universal Home Entertainment
DVD Featurettes: French Beans, Beans In Cannes, and The Human Bean.