© 2007 Ray Wong
Fans of Mr. Bean are not going to be surprised by his comeback 10 years after the 1997 movie Bean. Those who are not familiar with the British rubber-limp character may be in for a pleasant surprise.
Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) must the luckiest man in London -- he wins an all-expense-paid vacation to Cannes and a brand new camcorder. Armed with his camera and passport, Mr. Bean gleefully embarks on his exciting journey to the beach and records everything that amuses him. But is he really that lucky?
While changing trains in Paris, he inadvertently separates a father (Karel Roden) and his son (Max Baldry). Trying to get the boy and his father back together, Mr. Bean loses his luggage, passport, tickets, and everything he owns except the camcorder. On his way, he meets beautiful actress Sabine (Emma de Caunes), who is in town filming a commercial for director Carson Clay (Willem Defoe). Going to a premiere at Cannes, Sabine gives them a ride when the entire France is looking for Mr. Bean and the "kidnapped" boy.
Rowan Atkinson (Love Actually) reprises one of his most beloved characters with the same childlike quality. Coming from the same school of physical comedy as Jerry Lewis and Jim Carrey, Atkinson's rubber face and limps are hilarious, and yet he maintains his innocence even if he's doing something entirely inappropriate. And there are many inappropriate moments, ones that make you cringe and laugh at the same time.
As Sabine, Emma de Caunes (Short Order) is beautiful, sweet and effervescent, reminding me of the young Olivia Hussey. She doesn't have much to do except for the film's last act, but she leaves a good impression with her comic timing. Willem Defoe (Spider-Man 3) is exceptionally outrageous as the self-absorbed famous director -- the mock art film of his is hilarious all by itself. Karel Roden (The Bourne Supremacy) plays the concerned father/French director with heart, and Max Baldry (Rome) gives a heartfelt performance as the hapless lad who forms an unlikely friendship with Mr. Bean.
Written by Hamish McColl (Foley & McColl) and Simon McBurney (The Last King of Scotland) and based on Rowen Atkinson's character, the screenplay is typical British farce. Buoyed by Atkinson's affecting performance, the flaws of the screenplay can easily to be overlooked. One simply can't see a Mr. Bean movie and pick the plot apart -- to do so is to ask for trouble. And yet, kudos to the screenwriters for coming up with a coherent, simple story line with a soft heart at the core. The dialogue is kept to a minimum (it is, however, surprising to hear Mr. Bean speak!) with the focus on the cartoonish action.
Director Steve Bendelack (The League of Gentlemen) knows what Mr. Bean is all about, and he sticks with the tone: the human cartoon, the childlike ignorance, and an overall fairy tale quality. Mr. Bean is not real. His adventures are by and large a fantasy of the Jerry Lewis' kind. Bendelack succeeds in keeping the tone light and the situations surreal. There are moments of pure comedy and joy that seriously tickle the funny bone.
In the days of Borat! and Superbad, Mr. Bean might seem old-fashioned and passe, but to me, it's a breath of fresh air for those who enjoy physical comedies without potty humor and fart jokes. With its slapstick humor, a surreal plot (and a crowd-pleasing ending), and a warm heart at the center, the movie is a simple pleasure and a jolly good holiday.
Stars: Rowan Atkinson, Emma de Caunes, Willem Defoe, Karel Roden, Max Baldry, Jean Rochefort
Director: Steve Bendelack
Writers: Simon McBurney, Hamish McColl, Robin Driscoll
MPAA Rating: G for general public
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Script – 7
Performance – 7
Direction – 8
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 6
Production – 7
Total – 7.1 out of 10