Most Americans haven’t really had the chance to appreciate the quirky humor of Mr. Bean, especially if their only experience with Rowan Atkinson’s bumbling character was the painfully dull Bean which bored theater audiences to tears in the late 90s. Those of us on the States side of the pond who were lucky enough to have a television station that aired old BBC shows know Atkinson has much more to offer. Mr. Bean doesn’t need a stupid Americanized family-comedy script to be funny, and in fact he does better without much of a script at all. Someone had that realization when they pulled together Bean’s latest cinematic adventure and the result is classic Mr. Bean comedy goodness.
There’s still a big problem though: Mr. Bean is at his best in small doses. Those ten to fifteen minute sketches from the show were absolutely perfect. In movie form Bean is still good for a laugh and as always Atkinson’s comedic talents are spot on from start to finish, but a solid hour and half is just too darn long.
Thankfully, even though you could pack a big complicated comedic plot into those ninety minutes, the movie keeps things simple and sweet. Mr. Bean wins a local contest and the prize is a trip to the beach on the French Riviera. It’s a straightforward starting point, the perfect sort of situation for Bean to get into trouble.
Setting off with video camera in hand, he can’t even get on the train without creating chaos. An innocent mistake causes Bean to accidentally separate a young Russian boy from his father. The train pulls away with Bean and the boy on board and the left-behind father, a famous juror for the Cannes film festival, thinking that Bean has kidnapped his son launches a nationwide search for his missing son. Not that I blame him. If I had a kid I’d be worried too if he was last seen in the presence of someone as creepy as Mr. Bean.
From there the movie is one wacky scenario after another. Atkinson carries the film with his amazing and flawless physical comedy and as always does it with a bare minimum of dialogue. As the story progresses the different scenes feel more like disconnected skits than parts of a plot and Mr. Bean’s constant shtick with the video camera begins to get tiresome. But just when it seems things can’t possibly be going anywhere worthwhile, they twist in on themselves to form a clever little ending that ties everything together while adding a very unexpected (but perhaps well deserved) slap in the face to the artsy-fartsy pretentious side of the film industry.
Atkinson’s gifts for contorting his face and body into the most hilarious forms are a definite treat, and he somehow keeps things fresh through the entire film, but even the freshest dessert makes you ill to your stomach if you have too much. Still, it’s nice to see a Mr. Bean movie that doesn’t make me want to put a plastic bag over my head to end the monotony.
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