Friday, September 14, 2007

Mr. Bean's Holiday

I have seen Bean before...and despite never having been a huge fan of his work, the previews for Mr. Bean's Holiday (2007) combined with truly brutal traffic conditions to convince me going to see it was a good idea. And, in a shining ray of sunshine, sitting through the movie was definitely better than sitting through traffic.

There were some pretty good laughs in the movie. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) is a truly bizarre looking individual. Much of his comedy replies on his appearance and on his flexibility. For example, one scene tries to draw laughs by having him overemphasize the jack-booted goose step of World War II German soldiers, then having his goose-step get his foot caught on a clothes rack. If he did not look so goofy he could not pull it off to draw laughs.

The plot is pretty thin. Bean wins a vacation in Cannes. Being Bean, his ineptitude causes it to turn into a troubling trip, though he continues to have good cheer as problem after problem arises. He records everything on his video camera which seems to have an inexhaustible amount of tape in it.

The movie plays like a series of sketches involving the same character. If you like a sketch, smile, because another just like it will be right behind. If you dislike any particular sketch, don't will be over in a couple moments and you will be on to the next sketch involving Rowan Atkinson playing his Bean character. It is not unlike watching a "Best of Bean" cd of sketches if he had been a recurring character.

Sadly, I am not a huge fan of slapstick comedy. And it is hard to see Bean as a hero when he destroys computers, cell phones, acts as a jerk to a guy trying to help him out, steals a bike, tries to steal a vaguely motorized bike from a guy trying to help him out, and just generally is cruel to a variety of people. On the other hand, he still manages to be a sympathetic character for most of the movie.

Perhaps the best parts of the movie revolved around send-ups of movie making. First, there was Bean's as he wildly waves his camera around, videotapes the most mundane things, and the camera becomes ubiquitous with director Steve Bendelack replicating the "feel" of digital videotape in several of his own shots.

Second, there is the delicious send-up of self-important "art films" when Carson Clay (Willem Dafoe) plays his epic, self-indulgent, effect and mood-heavy but entertainment light film at Cannes...only to have Bean's home video in fast motion be played visually instead, coinciding with the doleful narrative to create a humorous, yet touching film that brings the Cannes audience to their feet.

It does a great job of pointing out the difference between what many independent film-makers think is great and how little most audiences care for them...and also gets in a pretty good poke at Oscar winning films that fail to entertain while films that entertain fail to Oscar.

Ultimately it was a mildly entertaining bit of cinema that probably did a little better at the box office than it deserved to do.

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