Mr. Bean's Holiday

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      Starring Rowan Atkinson, Willem Dafoe, and Emma de Caunes. Rated general.

      Though durable, highly successful, and mostly silent, English comedian Rowan Atkinson's most iconic creation does not have universal appeal. I have seen people in my own home literally flee screaming from Mr. Bean. For those who have an aversion to the comedy of embarrassment, Bean's shameless pratfalling and grotesque mugging triggers a sort of aesthetic anaphylaxis. The character also has a slightly sinister aspect: his total obliviousness can seem selfish, even sociopathic.

      Nonetheless, Bean has been a significant figure in English comedy, now receiving a sort of retirement gift. By titling Bean's final film Mr. Bean's Holiday, and setting the action in France, Atkinson acknowledges the influence of Jacques Tati's Mr. Hulot's Holiday for the amusement of cinephiles. It's the movie's sole intellectual joke, since the action posited by Mr. Bean's winning of a raffle draw for a holiday on the French Riviera, complete with videocam and spending money essentially consists of nonstop physical gags involving trains, shellfish, silly dancing, lost children, bicycles, a tank, and an extraordinarily egomaniacal film director, played by Willem Dafoe. There are other elements, of course: Jean Rochefort has a cameo as a sympathetic maí®tre d', and Emma de Caunes is lovely as Sabine, an ingénue actor who gives our hero a lift. But they provide only moments of respite before the next audacious blast of Bean.

      It's all good clean fun, if you can stand it. The only worry is what Bean will do now that Atkinson has retired him. Such an inarticulate, chaotic, and insensitive man is a great danger to others; one hopes that Karl Rove does not get ahold of him.