"Mr. Bean's Holiday," a sort-of sequel to 1997's "Bean" but more closely related in style to the early-'90s British sitcom, is said to be actor Rowan Atkinson's swan song as the oddball title character. As such, it is a fitting enough finalethere certainly isn't anything to be embarrassed aboutbut as a stand-alone motion picture, it is so inconsequential that it barely seems to exist at all. Credit should be given where credit is due, and "Mr. Bean's Holiday" can attest to a handful of quirkily funny moments and a narrative that pays loving tribute to the silent film era. Indeed, dialogue is in short supply, and most of that is in unsubtitled French. Alas, the movie's pure good will can only carry it so far, and by the third act it has already exhausted all avenues of amusement.
Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) is peculiar, to say the least, a grown man with a child's sensibility, a knack for getting into and out of tight jams, and a vocabulary that largely consists of grunts. When he wins a European vacation in a raffle, he is thrilled. His trip, however, goes off with more than a few hitches. When Bean's desire to have someone film him walking across the platform causes Emil (Karel Roden) to miss his train, thus separating him from young son Stepan (Max Baldry), Bean teams up with the kid to help them reunite. On his journey Bean unknowingly becomes an extra on the set of a yogurt commercial directed by pretentious filmmaker Carson Clay (Willem Dafoe), temporarily loses Stepan to a traveling band of musicians, befriends helpful actress Sabine (Emma de Caunes), and crashes the Cannes Film Festival.
Don't let the title fool you; "Mr. Bean's Holiday" fails to take much advantage of the premise that Bean is on an accident-prone trip through Europe, and location shooting is forgettable. Really, the film could have taken place in the character's hometown and it wouldn't have made any difference. Nevertheless, the film does have its charms. Mr. Bean is wonky and broad and just plain out-there, but his naiveté and wide-eyed wonder stops him short of becoming annoying. Rowan Atkinson (2003's "Johnny English
") is an ever-ready delight in the roleaffable, energetic and an expert of physical comedy. When a transportation-deficient Mr. Bean attempts to steal a passerby's motorbike despite its maximum speed only getting up to about 5 miles per hour, it is a visual hoot that Atkinson sells the rest of the way. Other highlights include an impromptu operatic street performance as a means of Bean earning cash and a set-piece where he struggles to confront his overly foofy meal at a ritzy French restaurant.
Nearly all of "Mr. Bean's Holiday" is told with a minimum of spoken language, and while this works during the gags, it is less successful in endearing the viewer to the rest of the characters. The friendship between Bean and Stepan fails to register on any connective or emotional level, and the introduction of Sabine as a major player in the second half is pointless because she never excels beyond pretty-face status. Meanwhile, Willem Dafoe (2006's "Inside Man
") is squandered as the self-righteous Carson Clay, and the events leading up to and during the Cannes Film Festival climax is more ho-hum than humorous.
When Mr. Bean reaches his oceanside paradise at the end, it should have more of an effect than it does. By this point, though, "Mr. Bean's Holiday" has overstayed its welcome (even at a brief 85 minutes) and director Steve Bendelack has put to waste the central conceit of the title. As charming as individual spots are, there is an overall creative sluggishness to the script that cannot be ignored. The idea of Bean being let loose in foreign surroundings has more potential than this film realizes, or deserves.