After waiting a decade for Rowan Atkinson to bring his anarchic creation back to the big screen, we must then wait an extra 40 minutes before director Steve Bendelak locates Mr. Bean’s comic pulse. It happens during a countryside idyll where his needlessly frenetic filming style gives way to a strolling gait. After a first half that’s something of a hit-and-miss affair, tagging along after Mr. Bean on vacation in France, this road pic pulls itself together by taking a breather, along with the great man, in wide open rural spaces. Even the plot starts to build as Bean, befriended by lovely actress Emma de Caunes, finds his way to the Cannes Film Festival where an ageless Willem Dafoe is showing a hilarious bit of navel-gazing tripe in competition. Naturally, Bean disrupts the event (and inadvertently saves the day) before reuniting a lost Russian son with his dad (don’t ask); finally hitting the beach for a blissed-out group sing-along comic catharsis on the pristine sands. As with the previous feature-length BEAN/’97, this posh looking production can’t quite capture the balance of charm, whimsy & cataclysmic mayhem seen in the best of Atkinson’s tv series (a matter of physical scale or running time?), but is plenty enjoyable all the same. Viva la Bean!
DOUBLE-BILL: Assuming you’ve gone thru Atkinson’s time-traveling BLACKADDER historicals, keep your eyes peeled for his latest, a new series of Inspector Maigret mysteries. We certainly are.