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Mr. Bean's Holiday DVD Review

Mr. Bean's Holiday movie poster - click to buy Mr. Bean's Holiday

US Theatrical Release: August 24, 2007 / Running Time: 100 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Steve Bendelack / Writers: Hamish McColl, Robin Driscoll (screenplay); Simon McBurney (story)

Cast: Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean), Emma de Caunes (Sabine), Max Baldry (Stepan), Willem Dafoe (Carson Clay), Jean Rochefort (Maitre'D), Karel Roden (Emil), Steve Pemberton (Vicar)

Buy Mr. Bean's Holiday from Amazon.com: Widescreen DVD Fullscreen DVD HD DVD / DVD Combo


This month marks the 18th anniversary of the official debut of Rowan Atkinson's Mr. Bean persona. The character had been used before on stage and in a television sketch, but it was New Year's Day 1990 when his own series first took to the air.
Like most British comedy shows, "Mr. Bean" was produced in moderation (a mere 14 half-hour episodes were made through 1995), but that didn't prevent Atkinson's largely silent dolt from becoming a global phenomenon and comedy institution, handily surpassing his first famous creation ("Blackadder") in recognition.

In 1997, Mr. Bean made a jump to the big screen in the poorly-reviewed Bean (sometimes subtitled The Movie), a film that did modest business in the States but was sensationally attended in other parts of the world. Since then, the character lived on chiefly in reruns (a staple of public broadcasting in America) and video releases that, due in part to their lack of a language barrier, sold well in many countries. An animated series introduced in 2002 offered a light and faithful revival for 26 episodes. But when plans were announced for a second theatrical film, it was with the air of a return, for the character had been mostly untapped in live-action form for close to a decade.

Following its predecessor's trend, Mr. Bean's Holiday took time to reach US theaters. When it did, late last summer, it was already an international blockbuster, having set box office records in its native United Kingdom and performed tremendously in foreign markets including Singapore, Malaysia, Finland, and Hong Kong. Once again, though, Americans were none too eager to join the fervor; Holiday's $33 million North American gross paled compared to the more widely distributed Bean ($45 M without adjusting for inflation) and put the film in the same league as Balls of Fury and Good Luck Chuck, hardly the stuff of national talk.

Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) waves for a stranger who's friendly enough to record him on holiday using his newly-won video camera. Upon noticing Stepan (Max Baldry) copying his leg-crossing gesture, Bean tries to thwart the boy's "monkey see, monkey do" tactics.

Mr. Bean's Holiday lives up to its title with an extremely straightforward premise that places the rubbery title character, already a fish out of water in his native London, in a different land where he's even fishier. On a rainy June day, Bean eventually realizes that he is the winner of a church raffle, which nets him a vacation to Cannes, a video camera, and some spending money. Needless to say, the vacation is fraught with misadventure from the get-go.

After a gross episode involving seafood at a French restaurant, we get to the heart of the journey which pits Bean with Stepan (Max Baldry), a young Russian boy who, thanks to Bean, has been separated from his father. Mishaps with train departures, bus tickets, and wallets leave Bean and Stepan with no money and no means of getting to their joint destination, Cannes. Predictably, the film has fun testing Bean's resourcefulness, while letting the boy disappear and resurface on the haphazard road to reunion. Along the way, Bean ends up in the middle of an elaborate yogurt commercial shoot. He then reconnects with Sabine (Emma de Caunes), a French actress who's en route to the Cannes Film Festival for what she hopes is her big breakthrough.

True to the series, Holiday is extremely physical, broad, and simple almost all the time. Atkinson's brand of comedy keeps him a man of very few words, which somewhat works with him being in a foreign country and unable to speak the language. Dialogue is kept to a minimum and most of it is in French and subtitled. More significant than any speech is the physicality of Atkinson, which many (the performer included) have traced back to the late French comedian Jacques Tati. Even if, like me, you're not familiar with Tati's work, you'll easily be able to link Bean to Silent Era stars like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

Three passengers from three modes of life speaking three different languages... Bean and Stepan get a ride from French actress Sabine (French actress Emma de Caunes). Mr. Bean gains notice in a town square with his rhythmic dancing to songs like Shaggy's "Boombastic."

Though Chaplin and Keaton are heralded among the all-time comedy greats, the fact of the matter is that their works require patience and an open mind from modern audiences. While today's average talkative comedy isn't bound to be celebrated and studied eighty years from now, most at least are able to serve modern sensibilities.
By operating from a purer palette, Bean may have more universal appeal, but he's not as likely to bust guts as better, more complex comedies are. For every viewer cracking up at the antics, there's got to be two left cold by humor that's obvious and none too refined.

Neither the character nor the new movie is without charm, however. Much of it stems from the old-fashionedness, a clear throwback to times when soundtracks didn't exist and actors used their entire bodies, not just their mouths and faces, to earn guffaws. Holiday shows little evidence of being a 2007 movie; a contemporary song, mobile phones, and an extremely prominent Sony camera may be all that date it. Other elements point to this being an older production, from Shaggy's "Boombastic" taking us back a dozen years to the general feel of something worn you'd encounter in a public library with a 1970s copyright date.

Whether or not you find Atkinson and his Bean shtick funny, you've got to admire his work ethic, scrunching up his face and contorting his person, all in the name of laughs that many audience members won't grant. I certainly feel that were Bean a new character or someone different was doing this routine, it'd get more notice and praise from our cultural arbiters. There's a comfort in seeing Atkinson back in his trademark role and even revisiting some of the same old gags, but it also offers a complacency that keeps the film from getting seriously discussed and commended.

Buy Mr. Bean's Holiday (Widescreen Edition) on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: November 27, 2007
Suggested Retail Price: $14.98 (Reduced from $29.98)
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
White Keepcase
Also available in Reformatted Fullscreen DVD
and on HD DVD / DVD Combo

VIDEO and AUDIO

Like many a present-day creation, Mr. Bean's Holiday was released in separate widescreen and fullscreen DVD editions. I reviewed the former, which preserves the film's 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio and enhances the picture for 16x9 displays. I have nary a bad word to say about the transfer, which conveys the bright, mostly outdoor photography in a clean and crisp manner. Likewise, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack satisfies. There's much less dialogue here than in your typical comedy, but that only underscores the importance of sound effects and music, both nicely active and appropriately engulfing. The plentiful foreign dialogue is translated by player-generated subtitles, which may bother some but ensures that French and Spanish speakers can get a tailored viewing experience with their corresponding streams.

An extended version of Mr. Bean's first hitchhiking efforts is included among the many deleted scenes. Rowan Atkinson gets out of Bean's drab brown suit and into a bright, colorful shirt for an out-of-character interview in one of the disc's three featurettes. Mr. Bean strikes interesting poses for the bubbles the float on the animated menu, while "La Mer" plays ad nauseam.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

First and foremost among the supplements is a collection of 17 deleted scenes, running 24 minutes altogether. Found here are a variety of antics from the gangly lead, some of which are reportedly in the UK cut of the film (which Universal trimmed to move from a PG rating to a G). A few of the scenes find Bean more vocal (in his usual deep tone) than he is in much of the film. Most notable among the excisions: Bean getting his tie stuck in a baguette vending machine,
Bean weaseling his way out of not having a train ticket, an extended view of his hitchhiking wait, Bean getting into an unsubtitled argument with Sabine, Bean using charades to communicate with the band that helps Stepan, more of Bean in the film projection booth, and additional content from the finale. Though most of the material is on par with what's in the film, it feels excessive and would have made the movie needlessly cross the 90-minute mark.

Three featurettes follow. "French Beans" (11:20) stands as a general piece that discusses the film's concept and set pieces.

"Beans in Cannes" (5:45) covers the production being enabled to film a climax at the actual Cannes Film Festival, wrapping up with some sentimental assessments of the closing beachside number.

Finally, "The Human Bean" (6:10) allows the film's cast and crew to heap copious amounts of praise upon Rowan Atkinson, the performer and the man.

Greeting you at disc insertion are previews for The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie and interminable series The Land Before Time. These aren't available from the menus.

The menus are a pretty simple affair, with the main screen employing floating bubbles of Bean antics against a sky blue background. Both it and the bonus features menu are accompanied by the repeatedly excerpted Charles Trenet song "La Mer" (the melody of which is familiar from "Beyond the Sea"). The rest of the selection screens are neither animated nor musical. Aside from the disc, there's not a blessed thing to be found inside the case.

Having gotten a boost from a nearby vehicle, Mr. Bean practically flies through the French countryside on his bicycle. One hopes that this isn't what Steve Bendelack or Rowan Atkinson experience when seeing "Mr. Bean's Holiday" in theaters. Pretentious director Carson Clay (Willem Dafoe) watches his personal Cannes film in awe, while others are disinterested.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Mr. Bean's Holiday is a broad, old-fashioned comedy that will feel familiar to many, especially those who have encountered the Rowan Atkinson character on TV. If you've enjoyed Mr. Bean in small doses, you'll probably still like him here in a feature-length outing that stays true to tradition. If you can't get into this kind of humor, the film won't convert you but even you may find some entertaining material in what's practically a new silent movie. For instance, among the generally lowbrow jokes, there's surprising wit to be found in Willem Dafoe's appearance as an utterly pretentious American film director.

In the end, the entertainment value of Holiday boils down to a question of tastes more than your typical film; its unconventional style will either have your support or not. Either way, though, you're more likely to hold a middle ground stance than have a stronger reaction for or against it. Universal's DVD is pretty average, too, supplying terrific audio/video, a welcome lot of deleted scenes, and three light featurettes. This isn't one to race to the store and buy; if you disagree, then you've likely already picked it up in the month and a half it's been in stores. If you've got interest, though, a viewing is warranted and some families may consider this a pleasant alternative to more generic G-rated fare.

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Reviewed January 9, 2008.



Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2007 Universal Pictures, StudioCanal, Working Title Productions, and Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
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