It's a flying visit. Tonight I made the unfortunate mistake of thinking I could guarantee a night of laughter by watching 'Mr. Bean's Holiday'. I'm now hastily arranging a late night showing of Jacques Tati's 'Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot' in an attempt to remind myself of the kind of film I wanted to sit down and enjoy.
The problem with Bean, and I think this applies to the TV series as well as to the films, is that it's not true to its concept. I grew up watching great (and relatively recent) silent comedies such as Eric Sykes' 'The Plank'. My admiration for Sykes never diminishes and, in my mind, he remains Britain's most undervalued comic great. One of my favourites (though not a Sykes film) was 'A Home of Your Own', which ended with an inept stone mason inscribing a statue's plaque with the immortal words: 'this erection was made possible by pubic response'.
In comparison, Mr. Bean always disappoints me. Bean's failure is that he's not really silent. Because he inhabits the normal world, his own antics make him appear simply odd, if not seriously disturbed. This latest film version is terribly low on inspiration. The gags are weak, the script horribly sentimental, and the plot non-existent. Worst of all, there's an underlying wish to be seen to be doing something better than the usual prat falls. When Steven Martin uses Charles Trenet's classic 'La Mar' in 'L.A. Story', it perfectly captured the tone of the film as magic edged out reality. Here, the song is overused and the end of the film is a mess of sentiment, absurdity, and meaningfulness. It makes me so miserable to see another bad British film. I really hated it and it is now a Frenchman's job to cheer me up. I have no doubt that he will.