WFTB Score: 3/20
The plot: Hapless Englishman Mr Bean is delighted to win a holiday taking him to the South of France, but his trip to Cannes takes a detour when he accidentally causes a boy to become separated from his father. His chaotic efforts to reunite them are themselves disrupted when he meets Sabine, an actress on her way to a premiere at Cannes.
Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) is gawky, taciturn, and maladroit: what he’s not is lucky, until he wins first prize at the village raffle. Eurostar ticket at the ready, Bean excitedly packs himself off to France with the intention of recording every moment on his trusty video camera. When he demands that passing Russian Emil (Karel Roden) films him getting on the train from Paris, he causes Emil to miss the train, much to the distress of already-embarked son Stepan (Max Baldry).
Bean takes it upon himself to look after the boy, but (of course) his habit of making a farce of everything he does means it’s not as simple as getting off the train and catching the next one. Stuck without a passport or ready money, but armed with a camera, incomplete phone number and no common language, the pair are reduced to busking in a French town, before Bean goes AWOL in the hunt for a lost bus ticket (attached to a chicken) and causes havoc on the set of a tasteless* yoghurt commercial.
He strikes lucky again when actress Sabine (Emma De Caunes) passes by in her familiar, funky Mini on her way to Cannes, where she’s starring – she thinks – in a film by self-regarding auteur Carson Clay (Willem Dafoe). If only Bean could catch up with young Stepan again, everything might actually turn out fine.
The biggest fans of the Mr Bean television shows – not a group I can claim membership of, incidentally – would have to admit that their hero was not best served by the 1997 film Bean, in which he spoke a great deal and got mangled by the mechanics of plot and storytelling. In that sense, Mr Bean’s Holiday is a purer experience, since he is back to being almost completely silent, going about life in his own peculiar way and leaving behind a trail of irritation and destruction. What it’s not, however, is a film, so much as a haphazard collection of offcuts and routines linked together by the feeblest of stories about reuniting father and son.
On the upside, Atkinson is so gormless that you can’t help laughing at him occasionally; De Caunes is très jolie; and there’s a hint of shocking irreverence, plus the puncturing of pretension, in the use of World War II imagery to sell dairy goods. But that’s almost as much as there is to praise in the film. The rest is a disconnected hodge-podge of Atkinson clowning, ripping off Chaplin, Keaton, Jacques Tati, Peewee Herman and even John Cleese as he goes, finally resorting to drag in tacit acknowledgement that there are no more physical gags to plunder.
The film’s incoherence quickly becomes tiresome, to the point that Bean’s matchsticks-to-stay-awake trick achieves a level of subconscious irony. And no matter how innocently it’s played, there’s still something creepy about Bean making faces at the boy while he tries to distract him from his distress.
Strangely, the resolution to what storyline there is sort of works, with Clay’s poncy film Playback Time becoming, through the substitution of Bean’s video material, a showreel for Sabine, the premiere turning into an interactive theatre performance as Stepan dramatically re-emerges in front of his father. However, the journey to get there is a largely laugh-free trek from which only the French scenery emerges with much dignity. Life’s really too short to put up with stuff as low-quality as this; if you do find yourself with time on your hands, I strongly urge you to watch Blackadder from series two and/or Jour de Fête instead.
NOTES: The adjective applies to the advert, not the yoghurt. Not that it matters, but I think the yoghurt was raspberry or strawberry flavoured.