During a busy three-day weekend we managed to carve out a couple of hours to see Mr. Bean’s Holiday, the new comedy starring Rowan Atkinson, the rubber-faced British comedian who starred in the terrific TV series Blackadder and Mr. Bean. He has also appeared as a supporting character in numerous movies, and as the title character of Bean, an immensely funny comedy based on the title character of the Mr. Bean TV series. (He also played the title character in Johnny English, another very funny movie, this one a parody of espionage and suspense fiction. I recommend Mr. Bean and Johnny English and highly recommend Bean.)
I suppose that the title of the present release is a reference to M. Hulot’s Holiday, the 1950s film comedy by the French writer-director Jacques Tati, which is much beloved by intellectuals and pretty much nobody else.
Like Tati’s film and its predecessor, Bean, Mr. Bean’s Holiday is a return to the silent comedy tradition. Also like Tati’s film, Bean and Mr. Bean’s Holiday do have soundtracks, and Atkinson’s two Bean movies include a reasonable amount of dialogue, but the emphasis is strongly on the visuals and very much on just trying to be as funny as possible.
Unlike Tati’s film, which is an intellectual’s attempt at recreating the sophisticated silent comedies of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, Atkinson’s two Bean films are meant simply to be funny and fun, as in the Mack Sennett Keystone Cops/bathing beauties/falling down and breaking things tradition.
My preference is definitely for the latter, nonintellectual approach, and in Bean Atkinson made a film that can stand comparison with Sennett’s best work. It is slaptsick visual comedy of a very high order.
Mr. Bean’s Holiday is not nearly as effective as Bean, as there is simply not as high a proportion of really good gags as in Bean. But that’s a difficult standard to reach. Mr. Bean’s Holiday is fun and funny, and it will provide some amusement for a rainy day. It’s a good opportunity to turn off your mind and enjoy some hearty, liberating laughter without any ugly implications. There are far too few such opportunities being created in our culture these days, and we should appreciate those that come along.
M. Hulot’s Holiday: Recommended for film buffs and some other intellectual types.
Mr. Bean (TV series): Recommended.
Mr. Bean – The Animated Series: Recommended.
Mr. Bean’s Holiday: Recommended for those in search of some silly fun.
Johnny English: Recommended.
Bean: Highly recommended.
Blackadder: Highly recommended.