There's always been something dark about Mr. Bean, Rowan Atkinson's nearly mute man-child character, who causes slapstick chaos wherever he goes. Unlike Buster Keaton, Chaplin's Little Tramp, or any of the other slapstick-causing, nearly mute man-children who could start out stuffing a turkey and wind up with their heads inside it, Mr. Bean has never been loveable or even really likeable. On his long-running TV series, Atkinson managed to convey a kind of casual malevolence with his ferret-like features, as Bean went around selfishly squeezing his Mini Cooper into tight parking spots, stealing stamps from letters, or cutting ahead of injured people in line at the hospital. He was antisocial, clueless, and often funny in small doses.
Ten years after traveling to L.A. in Bean, Atkinson takes a winding vacation to southern France in Mr. Bean's Holiday, a film that Atkinson has said will be Bean's final public outing. But instead of going out the way he came in—as a slightly dark, unpleasant man in a crumpled brown suit, with a bizarre, funny set of problem-solving skills—Atkinson goes out as a pleasant, almost warm weirdo, who wins a dream vacation to Cannes, makes friends with a lost little Russian boy (Max Baldry), helps out a pretty French actress (Emma de Caunes), briefly becomes a street performer, sneaks into the Cannes film festival with a Crayola-drawn VIP pass, and ends up leading a dream-like sing-along to "La Mer" on the beach at Cannes. No, really.
In truth, Mr. Bean's Holiday is a very cute movie. Unfortunately, cute is rarely funny. Flashes of the old Mr. Bean recur here and there, like when Atkinson tries to steal a particularly run-down motorbike from an old Frenchman, or when he's cast as a German soldier in a yogurt commercial. But some of the movie's funniest bits—Willem Dafoe's fake movie at Cannes, for example, or a long-running gag about calling various cell phones—have little to do with Bean. He's just the charming, poorly dressed weirdo off looking for the beach.