An overplayed television series, an animated spin-off and an unsuccessful initial outing onto the big screen later, and Rowan Atkinson’s (Johnny English) most popular character is back yet again. Probably for the last time, if the reports we’ve been hearing are true. We know what you’re thinking and, yes, we also figured this was going to be another rehash of old gags that have grown stale over the years. Yet, against all odds, Mr. Bean’s Holiday isn’t as bad as we thought it would be.
Bean (Atkinson) wins a trip to Cannes, but, being the walking disaster that he is, his journey to the South of France is ripe with mishaps—like disrupting the latest production of snooty director Carson Clay (Willem Dafoe, Finding Nemo), helping a lost kid (Max Baldry, TV’s Rome) find his father and winding up on the French authority’s most wanted list.
The story’s a little light, but it’s not like anyone walks into this looking for deep plot. Tapping into the title character’s strengths—his oblivious carelessness and his well-meaning, but bumbling antics—Atkinson gives a decent performance that reminds us why Bean was such a hit in the first place. It goes without saying, but if you’re expecting any of the sharp wit that he showed in the classic Brit comedy Black Adder or his stand-up material, look elsewhere. It’s pure camp here and he relishes every moment of it, his enjoyment showing clearly in his performance.
And it looks like his influence may have rubbed off a little on Dafoe, who channels the over-the-top villainy from his role in Spider-Man, but adds a bit of goofy charm. The end result is a somewhat cartoonish baddie that fits perfectly into the tone of the show.
At the end of the day, this one’s primarily for the kids, but it will inspire a couple of chortles out of the grown-ups. Not exactly the highest point in Atkinson’s career, but nevertheless a fun, albeit slightly brainless, ride.
You’ll dig Mr. Bean’s Holiday, if you like: The original series, the first movie and the cartoon. Basically, anything and everything Mr. Bean.