Mr. Bean’s Holiday
Rowan Atkinson’s “Mr. Bean” series is one of the most brilliant things ever to come out of British television, right up there with “Fawlty Towers” and Atkinson’s other masterpiece, the “Blackadder” series. So why was the first movie, Bean, absolutely dreadful, to the point that I couldn’t bear to watch beyond the halfway point? What happened?
Mr. Bean is … almost impossible to describe. He apparently is some sort of alien, as we see him beamed down to Earth at the beginning of each episode, and he wanders off, clueless. He understands some things about being human, but just enough to get him in trouble. He can be sweet—he has a teddy bear that seems to be his only friend—and he can be vindictive. Most of what he does in that line is in the nature of a prank … but it usually goes a lot farther than he planned. His attempts to cover up his involvement invariably get him in deeper, then he usually manages to make his escape and let someone else take the blame for his disasters.
He barely talks, just mumbles from time to time. These TV shows are basically silent two-reelers, and that may be a clue as to why, as I was astonished to learn, the original Bean made a ton of money. (It was at one time #85 of the IMDb’s world-wide top grossing films. It’s since dropped to #261, as there have been a lot of big movies since then, but you need to have made $232,000,000 to take that place.) It’s the same reason Charlie Chaplin was for a long time the most popular film star in the world. His jokes were all visual, no language barrier, and you liked him. Mr. Bean is not as harmless as the Little Tramp, but I can’t help pulling for him as he makes his way through the world.
This movie is actually funnier than the first, which used a lot of recycled gags from the TV show. Here we have mostly original gags, and many of them work. It doesn’t tie into a coherent whole, but neither did the TV show. The only thing I really objected to was the attempt to soften it a little by giving him a child sidekick. Is he inviting comparisons to Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid? He shouldn’t; he’ll lose.