The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Mr. Bean's Holiday

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Jacqueline Monahan

Mr. Bean's Holiday

Las Vegas Round The Clock - http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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Here we have the film that answers the burning question, where would a Bean go for a dream getaway? What could possibly compel the tall man of few words to leave his beloved Mini Cooper (complete with padlocked door) and his foggy, overcast U.K. homeland? An all-expense-paid trip to sunny, ocean-side Cannes, won in a church raffle, compels Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) our lanky, tweed-covered protagonist to become an even bigger fish out of water than he already is.

Those familiar with the title character from the British television series and the 1997 feature film will recognize Mr. Bean as a man who goes through life practically playing charades, reluctant to verbalize and relying on his rubbery features to convey surprise, confusion and utter bewilderment. He will speak if he must; his longest sentence in this film is a mammoth 3-word monologue, “To the beach!”

There’s a restaurant scene that pits the proper Bean against a legendary international challenge: the French waiter, here played by veteran actor Jean Rochefort. The clueless Bean is no match for the suave, knowledgeable Maitre’D, and orders and eats disastrously. He shows a bit of a mean streak in the film in a few places. You decide if it becomes him or not. For me, calculation does not distinguish Bean from the masses. It makes him more like them and that will never do.

Mr. Bean starts his train trip with high hopes, a camcorder, money, identification and luggage. In short order, through a strange sequence of events, he manages to separate a young Russian boy, Stepan, (Max Baldry) from his father, Emil (Karel Roden) and lose all of his possessions except the camcorder, upon which he obsessively tapes every interaction and activity. Many instances include scenes of unintentional destruction and chaos set off by Bean himself, who remains blissfully unaware of his impact on the environment.

Travel starts by train, resumes on foot, by chicken truck, ancient bicycle, world’s slowest scooter, and finally, another Mini Cooper. Through it all Mr. Bean keeps his sights firmly on the coastal town that will let him romp in the sun and surf.

Stepan becomes a sporadic companion on Bean’s haphazard yet dogged mission to make it to Cannes. They share a similar maturity level and learn panhandling techniques from each other, as their paths cross and uncross several times, allowing Bean to have solo adventures as well as those that call for an accomplice.

Along the way, Bean meets fledgling actress, Sabine, (Emma de Caunes) invades the set of a Nazi-filled yogurt commercial, and becomes mistakenly wanted by the authorities for kidnapping Stepan. Misunderstandings are necessary in any Bean undertaking. The humor comes from the mugging and gesturing that are his trademarks. The raised eyebrows, wide-eyed bewilderment and scrunched nose/lip combo all serve to highlight Bean’s intellectual workings, although we can never really predict where those thought processes will lead until a dozen oozing oysters invade a woman’s handbag or a building explodes in the middle of a serene French meadow.

The Cannes Film Festival figures somewhat prominently toward the middle and end of the film. It turns out that Carson Clay, (Willem Dafoe) the pretentious American director of the yogurt commercial has an entry in the prestigious competition. He is a self-important, humorless bore, putting himself on film and the audience on the brink of dozing off. Then Bean arrives in drag to save the day with accidental and purposeful manipulations that achieve world peace and align the planets. Well, not really, but you know how everything tends to work out for Mr. Bean, despite his unintentionally destructive ways. You will quickly figure out Stepan’s fate.

Director Steve Bendelack has a long history of British television series, mostly comedy, under his belt, and seems right at home accompanying Atkinson through his romp. At best he goes along for the ride; it’s Atkinson who is always in charge, guiding his alter-ego through alien terrain with the confidence of one who is at home in both skins.

Max Baldry is a competent foil for Bean’s buffoonery, both a student of and a teacher to the man-child. Willem Dafoe is a good sport to portray the conceited and temperamental Carson Clay, whose works are cinematic Sominex for the masses. Emma de Caunes is a charming and optimistic companion for the usually asexual Mr. Bean, and brings out a bit more of relatable humanity in the eccentric character.

Whether you like the film or not will depend quite heavily on your tolerance for Mr. Bean himself. Having been a Jacques Tati (Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday) fan for many years, I optimistically anticipated this Bean homage to the French master, also a man of few words who played with his food.

Although some may find Bean indigestible, if Atkinson’s antics are your cup of tea, then he just might turn out to be your favorite “Cannes’d.” vegetable. Just don’t ingest too much.