2 stars (out of four)
"Mr. Bean's Holiday" has made $188 million in other countries. Whether or not the Americans go for it really doesn't matter. Nor does it matter to early 21st Century audiences how much or little this holiday owes to "Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot," to name its most significant precedent.
The old Jacques Tati seaside excursion happens to be a whole lot funnier than this new one, which has its moments and passes the time (now there's a low bar) but rarely in freshly funny ways. The comedy here is not assaultive, which is a relief. But too often in "Mr. Bean's Holiday," you get the feeling Rowan Atkinson and his collaborators confused the notion of "building a gag slowly" with "forgetting to build one at all."
In the new film Atkinson's Bean escapes rainy old England when a church lottery rewards him with a trip to Cannes, plus a camcorder. Everything goes wrong in large and small ways: In Paris he misses his train south and runs afoul of some nasty crustaceans at a snooty restaurant. Later, on the Gare Du Lyon platform, Bean causes the separation of a Russian film director heading to Cannes and the director's son (Max Baldry). The urchin ends up on the train with Bean; a third character, an aspiring actress and full-time gamine (Emma de Caunes) joins the duo en route to Cannes, where Bean triumphs and an ugly American auteur (Willem Dafoe) ends up owing his smash success to one twitty Englishman's home video footage.
Ruthlessly skilled as Atkinson is, the Bean persona of generic, maniacally grinning ineptitude owes most of its appeal to seeing just how far an actor can pull a face without pulling a muscle. Now in his early 50s, Atkinson has lost little of his paradoxical graceful klutziness or his above-the-neck elasticity. But international box office success aside, you wouldn't mind a less desperately scaled comic character running the show.
'Mr. Bean's Holiday'
Directed by Steve Bendelack; screenplay by Hamish McColl and Robin Driscoll, from a story by Simon McBurney; photographed by Baz Irvine; edited by Tony Cranstoun; music by Howard Goodall; production design by Michael Carlin; produced by Peter Bennett-Jones, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. A Universal release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:30. MPAA rating: G.
Mr. Bean - Rowan Atkinson
Sabine - Emma de Caunes
Stepan - Max Baldry
Carson Clay - Willem DafoeCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times