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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

'Mr. Bean's Holiday' might be the best Mr. Bean film ever

I was amazed by the popularity of this movie, judging from the fact that it's still showing in the cinemas after more than a month, and still having difficulties trying to get a ticket even though the movie's been in cinemas for that long. (Attempted to see it with family during opening weekend, but to no avail)

I can't call myself a Mr. Bean fan. To me, he can be both repulsive and funny, and I sometimes had problems trying to decide whether I liked him, or hated him. Despite thus, like most people here, I did grow up watching his TV show, so, naturally, watching this new film, Mr. Bean's Holiday, is like a reunion with someone from your past whom you don't really like and haven't met for quite a while (it's been exactly ten years since the first film, BEAN).

Situations like these can be either an annoyance, where you are reminded why you didn't like him at the first place, or it can be a pleasant surprise, when you realize that Time might have dull whatever negative feelings you have towards the person, and find that the person isn't that bad after all, or perhaps this person has already changed, not a major, 180 degree character transformation, yet he possesses things that surprise you. It's like meeting an old high school classmate, and his mannerisms are still as annoying as I remembered, but all of a sudden, he engages with me, deep heartfelt conversations about filmmaking and literature. And with that, he doesn't seem that bad anymore.

MR. BEAN'S HOLIDAY is no masterpiece, it's not the kind of movie that makes you laugh until you can't breathe, I'm not even sure whether I can call it a good comedy, yet I enjoyed the last fifteen minutes of the film so much that it just seems to make up whatever shortcomings the film had earlier. The idea of Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson), winning a trip to Cannes, and then stumbling into the Cannes Film Festival, plugging his video camera to the projector during the premiere of a self-serious art film starring and directed by an egoistic, pretentious director Carson Clay (Willem Defoe), where his video diaries ends up matching the narrative of the film, is, to me, comedic gold. (that's because Carson Clay's film within the film, 'Playback Time', is so overindulgent and arty that not only did I laugh, I also got a bit worried about my own filmmaking style...) The feel-good musical finale comes after that part of the film is so surrealistic and fun I can't help but think that this is the most perfect farewell for the Mr. Bean character.

This film is more European than its predecessor (which, for some reason, feels as if it's really pandering to a wider, but mostly American audiences with its broad and slapstick humour), relying more on long, drawn-out sight gags, with Mr. Bean being more a well-intentioned bumbling idiot than an amoral anarchist (it's really up to you to decide whether this is a good thing or a bad thing). Unsurprising, since Rowan Atkinson did say that the character of Mr. Bean is inspired by Monsieur Hulot, a creation of French filmmaker Jacques Tati (incidentally, I caught a few scenes of MONSIEUR HULOT'S HOLIDAY when my dad was watching it few days earlier), and this film (prior to the Cannes Film Festival part) does feel like something from an earlier era, not just Hulot, but also a Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton film. Although, to my disappointment, Mr. Bean never came up with a rousing speech like Charlie Chaplin did in THE GREAT DICTATOR.

Charlie Chaplin's legendary speech in THE GREAT DICTATOR

That speech was what made THE GREAT DICTATOR a classic, maybe Mr. Bean talking during a climatic moment in MR. BEAN'S HOLIDAY would have been special as well (just like how I can't remember a damned thing about the first Mr. Bean movie, except the part where he gave a speech about the Whistler's Mother painting). But then, this will become a much different type of film, and I guess I'll have to accept the fact that his hijinks at the Cannes Film Festival scene is the equivalent of the 'rousing speech' scene.

What do you people think? Would having him talk (not the whole movie, just the climatic moment) destroy Mr. Bean's character? I don't see it damaging Charlie Chaplin's Tramp character. Hey, even Buster Keaton had sang and dance too.

Buster Keaton singing and dancing

Hah, this has turned into a tribute to comedic greats of yesteryear.