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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Mr. Bean's Holiday

Beans give me gas and Mr. Bean is no exception. Mr. Bean’s Holiday, an excruciating 90 minute exercise in pain that makes Hostel seem like a laugh riot is evidence that comedy in Europe is deader than Francisco Franco.

I have never liked Mr. Bean in any of his previous television incarnations, and his portrayer, Rowan Atkinson, seems desperately smug and far from endearing as the “man-child” he attempts to deliver. Atkinson fares better as his other famous character, Blackadder, and I, personally would have much preferred to take a holiday with him. Instead, Atkinson saddles us with Mr. Bean, a creature as annoying and possibly as brain-damaged as my second cousin Acorn, who is known to eat grasshoppers and lock himself in public toilets without being able to get himself free. Before you ask, Acorn’s mother named him that because he was the eleventh of her fourteen children (yes, they’re Catholic) and by the time he was due she didn’t even realize she was in labor before he dropped like a nut at her feet, right under a tree. Unfortunately, the tree was in a planter along the Main Street in their home town, so Acorn landed head first on the pavement as his welcome into this world.
Mr. Bean’s Holiday makes no such explanation for his odd behavior.

Coincidentally, though, Mr. Bean does share Acorn’s penchant for eating odd things and for having problems with public accommodations, though not exactly in the same ways. Yes,
Mr. Bean’s Holiday is rife with all types of slapstick foolishness, firing bit after bit on all cylinders, leaving one with the feeling that Atkinson merely threw every gag he could think of at the audience and hoped at least half of them would hit the mark. I suppose if you are five or six years old they do. Otherwise, not so much. If Atkinson hoped for the charming style of Chaplin’s “The Little Tramp” he ended up only succeeding in causing me “the little cramps” throughout.

I honestly went into
Mr. Bean’s Holiday hoping to like it. I never want to hate a film. After all, if I’m going to give a couple hours of my life over to a story I want it to be worth the time I’ll never get back. In this case, I could have found a cure for cancer, solved global warming, or had a creemee at Al’s with my gal pals Dale and Nancy instead. Oh well. At least the supporting cast is interesting.

It’s true; besides Mr. Bean, the companions he meets along the way are by far more fascinating, clever, and easy on the eyes. You see, the plot, what little there is, has Mr. Bean winning a trip to
Cannes from his home in London via train. Unfortunately, or shall I say ‘Expectedly’, Mr. Bean manages to get off his train at the wrong stop after also managing to separate a French boy from his father. The boy, Stepan (Max Baldry; HBO’s “Rome”) is a charmer, and he takes to Mr. Bean immediately despite the fact that the guy doesn’t speak except in grunts and unintelligible gibberish. Apparently because Bean makes faces and walks silly it is enough to convince the boy to put his trust in this adult stranger. In other words, this “comedy” masks the obviously serious lesson children seeing this movie need to learn, but will never get here: stay away from strangers. No, Chris Hanson of “To Catch a Predator” is nowhere to be found, warning young Stepan that Mr. Bean would seem to have the makings of the perfect pedophile! Here he has separated that lovely young boy from his father and now with a bit of stupid humor and some tricks has the boy following him everywhere without so much as a squeal of resistance. The boy is simply mesmerized.

I bring this up because on the day I saw this fecal flop at the always lovely Essex Cinemas, several day care programs had made arrangements to bring their charges in to see Mr. Bean’s Holiday. While I definitely think that the target audience should be five and under for this movie, I seriously doubt that the staff of the various programs stressed the undercurrent of the plot, which is actually addressed in the story, though in a vague and non-descript manner. After all, this is an alleged comedy. Still, as Mr. Bean parades his way towards Cannes, with and without Stepan, who he loses along the way (surprise!) before finding him again, the background is filled with television and newspaper reports of a possible pervert having kidnapped the son of a famous film director named Emil. Naturally, Emil (Karel Roden;
The Abandoned) is the guy Mr. Bean managed to innocently screw up getting on their original train back in London which eventually led to Bean’s meeting up and uniting with Stepan.

Also by coincidence, Mr. Bean winds up sharing part of his adventures with a gorgeous French actress who offers him a ride while he is hitch-hiking. Sabine (Emma de Caunes; The Science of Sleep) is a delightful breath of fresh air in this lead-ridden balloon. She is so unlike most movie actresses of today. She possesses a sweetness about her that radiates through the screen and makes you really want to like her and her character. Sabine is a struggling actress, who has just made her first major motion picture ~ well, her one scene anyway ~ with a famous American director/producer/writer/actor played with perfect venomous sarcasm by Willem Dafoe (Inside Man) as Carson Clay. Naturally, his wretched turkey of a film within this larger turkey of a film is premiering at the Cannes Film Festival where all the action will eventually (glacially) move for the
inevitable resolution, including the perfunctory chase scene, the requisite disguises that wouldn’t fool Helen Keller in mittens, and the obligatory heart-warming family reunion moment that galled me if for no other reason than because I found myself asking “Why would the parents of a supposedly kidnapped boy be going to the premiere of a movie and hitting the red carpet at a film festival?” Don’t you think that most parents would be a little too preoccupied or strung out with their own grief and nerves to attend a movie, even if it was the premiere of a friend’s film? I think most friends would understand. It makes you wonder if Stepan wouldn’t be better off on his own. Even when he was wandering the streets without Mr. Bean he managed to get a ride and seemed to be having a great time.

This has to win some awards, if only for the Worst Example of Keeping Track of Your Kid, Worst Showing of Insensitivity by a French Film Director/Parent , and, of course, Worst Holiday Companion You Can Ever Imagine. Truthfully, I would rather give myself a hot bacon grease enema than have to sit through this one again, though I suppose after the hot bacon grease I wouldn’t be able to anyways.

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