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Mr. Bean's Holiday

Rowan Atkinson's second feature-length outing as the bumbling Brit has moments of genuine humor and charm, but overall, Mr. Bean's Holiday is more of a mini-break than a full vacation


After Mr. Bean (Atkinson)--he of the prominent ears, nearly wordless communication, and tendency for goofy pratfalls--wins a camcorder and a trip to Cannes in a church raffle, he cheerfully heads off to France, taping himself every minute of the way. His need to document his holiday on film leads to a missed train for a fellow passenger, whose son Stepan (Max Baldry) is already on board. Bean feels responsible for the scared boy and attempts to help him reach his dad--but naturally, since this is Bean we're talking about, everything goes awry. It takes a chance encounter with lovely, Mini Cooper-driving French ingénue Sabine (Emma de Caunes) to get Bean and Stepan back on track. In the midst of the requisite comedy set pieces, everything comes to a head at the Cannes Film Festival, during the premiere of egotistical filmmaker Carson Clay's (Willem Dafoe) latest ''masterpiece.''


If you've ever seen Rowan Atkinson do Mr. Bean, you know what to expect from this movie. He twists his flexible face into various grimaces, pops his eyes in alarm/surprise/anger/wonder/happiness, grunts and burbles his way through his few actual conversations, and contorts his body for any number of physical gags. In other words, he's hardly subtle. But if you like Bean, you'll be tickled by this performance; Atkinson gives the character--and the movie--his all. De Caunes is a nice surprise as Sabine, a warm, friendly woman whose enthusiasm and low-key earthiness make her a good foil for Bean's antics. And Baldry is quite endearing in his basic ''cute kid'' role. But perhaps the most entertaining supporting cast member is Dafoe, who seems to take extraordinary pleasure in sending up a particular type of self-centered, self-righteous indie filmmaker.


Parts of Mr. Bean's Holiday evoke classic silent comedies--Bean barely talks, for one thing, and his interactions with young Stepan are almost Chaplin-esque at times. When the unlikely twosome is working together (notably, performing an impromptu aria in a village square and dressing up in women's clothes to sneak into Cannes), the film is at its most charming; Bean is much more sympathetic as the boy's protector than he is on his own. Still, director Steve Bendelack does give Bean a few strong solo set pieces, particularly a bike chase through the French countryside. Unfortunately, too much of what comes in between these highlights drags: Bean's predictably ''ewww''-inducing seafood lunch, for example, or the jerky footage from the "Bean cam." Even slapstick-loving kids may find themselves rolling their eyes when Bean rolls his for the umpteenth time.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 1/2 stars.