We can never trust a man named after food. That snivelling weasel Linguini from Ratatouille. The Burger King. Stromboli from Pinocchio. Bean. No trust there. Mr. Bean’s Holiday thrusts him towards France after he pulls off a raffle heist of the century, switching his losing ticket for a winning one after a magic train takes it through a tunnel. The man is an idiot. A simpleton. That is the charm Rowan Atkinson brings to his portrayal of this loveable klutz. A man of this calibre could not exist in the real world. He barely lives on in the fictional lands he plagues, yet somehow Atkinson preserves a relatively nice charm that has lasted for decades.
Charm can only last so long before it begins to peter out. Atkinson has offered the three peaks of this great character. His original outing, the animated adventures, and finally, this. Mr. Bean’s Holiday is a return to form for the character that is not emphasised with animated flourishes. We are given the Bean in all his glory, and all he wishes to do is head to the beaches of Cannes. Do we not all wish for that? Those working in this field surely do. Where Roger Ebert enjoyed the sights and sounds of the Cannes Film Festival, Bean has no desire for the fame and fortune he stumbles upon, he just wants the beach. A simple man requires simple things, and that is Bean embodied. He does not need the love of Sabine (Emma de Caunes), he merely needs the love of nature. Mother Earth has provided him with the beach. That is his muse.
That red-tie psychopath in his little green car has many questions to answer pending his return from Cannes. Mr. Bean’s Holiday expresses the usual antics of the eponymous beast but gives him a change of scenery which makes him feel larger than life and out of his element. More so than usual, anyway. The Church raffle that hands Bean the chance of a lifetime, to be whisked away to the beauties of France, must feel good in helping this truly sick man move to a distant land away from his village. But as we laugh at this manic menace, we must realise that we can laugh at Mr. Bean and also with him. That is the beauty of his character, for laughing at him we realise he can be likeable and endearing, but laughing with him is at the mental endurance of those that meet him. Quite the blend, and at times a strong and effective one in Mr. Bean’s Holiday.
At its core though are the innocence and family humour that comes from a man dressed as a Wehrmacht trooper, carrying a video camera and an MP40 into a yoghurt commercial directed by Willem Dafoe. Well, Carson Clay. But he is the embodiment of everything Dafoe detests. Arrogant, smug and self-indulgent is the life of Clay, but with Bean batting against him, he is sure to find success in other areas. Everyone does. Mr. Bean’s Holiday accepts that rather well. He causes trouble and strife for many of those he meets, but in the end, they stick it out with him because he rewards them for their patience. It is a life lesson to be had. Who’d have thought it?