Saturday, 7 April 2007

Mr. Bean's Holiday

Yes, I admit it. I went in and watched Mr. Bean's Holiday. I felt a certain sense of loyalty to this character as watching the TV series is one of my many happiest childhood memories.

There is an unspoken rule that movie versions of popular television series are just not meant to be the same (the Ben Stiller-Owen Wilson version of Starsky and Hutch is playing on my TV set right now, ahem). Watching Bean on cinematic celluloid you do become aware of how hard the makers are working at trying to not be an extended TV episode. I just about remember the last Bean movie that I saw ten years ago but in all fairness, I think this movie version is more rooted to its character than the 1997 film.

Add to that, there are certain changes. Not huge earth-shattering changes but little ones where the humour seems more oriented towards children (perhaps from being influenced by the belated but popular cartoon spin-offs of the sitcom). Having said that, I do notice that Mr. Bean's teddy, which is a popular fixture in the animated series, seems to have vanished completely.

Plot- Bean picks a winning raffle ticket and jet-sets his way to France. In England, he has always been a fish out of water and in France he gets to be the fish out of water landing onto a hot dry desert. There are some entertaining comical moments. My personal favourite is the scene where Bean pretends to be grief-stricken nun and mimes along to a melodramatic opera. This is a curious moment where Bean stops being Bean and is now someone else. The funny nun, if you like. It is a wonderful reminder of the versatility of Rowan Atkinson's comic flair and it proves his range as an actor. The watchable climax, set in Cannes, may go over the heads of some young kids but it is funny to see the way that arty and thoughtful films are ridiculed. It is obviously a two-finger salute to the critics that have panned Mr. Bean's Holiday.

I was a fan of Bean as a child, but watching him here from a new adult perspective, he appears to be quite an unlikeable character. That he is a loser is no doubt true. But is he a likeable loser? M Hulot, Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy had more charm (and they are Rowan Atkinson's comedy heroes). Bean is a beany meany. He asks a stranger to hold his video camera and to record a shot of him walking down the platform. The train starts to go off and Bean jumps on just in time but cares little for the stranger who can't make it.

This is where Bean loses its shine for me. He is selfish with a capital S. "Oh, big wow", I hear you say. Laurel and Hardy cared for each other and I can't picture either of them willing to leave the other one behind on the train platform.

Bean gets his 'redemption'. He follows the man's kid (left behind on the train) around like a shifty pervert. When he meets Sabine (played by a natural Emma de Caunes), the unlikeable qualities in Bean become clear and stark. The woman is a breath of fresh air. Giving and kind, she is the complete opposite to Bean. And she brings something else to the picture too - English subtitles for the French dialogue. It's nice to see that the producers didn't think that their target audience was too dumb for subtitles.

Rowan Atkinson is a wonderful comic actor but the gurning and mumbling does get a little too much. Please give this actor something else to do. Doing Bean is not easy and he must be praised for bringing it to life so believably but deep down, I feel that Mr. Bean is not the kind of comic caricature that is worthy of Atkinson's stature. All good things must come to an end and I feel that there really are no mileages to be brought out of the Bean creation.

Let's see the rebirth of another iconic character in comedy. Blackadder is more like it.


Anonymous said...

Superb review Shahid! I'm a huge fan of the Bean TV series, and like you felt that with this movie, the series was past it's "used by" date:)


Shahid Khan said...

Hi Akshay,

Nice to see you on here. :)

Let's hope they don't make any more Bean movies! lol