The word “bean” is just plain funny on its own, especially when uttered by Rowan Atkinson’s frog-voiced character, the well-meaning but inept clod at the center of the movies Bean and Mr. Bean’s Holiday. Actually, Mr. Bean doesn’t speak much; he’s a near-silent clown, in the tradition of Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel, and Jacques Tati, who can be counted on to turn a minor inconvenience into a colossal catastrophe. In Bean, he’s inexplicably entrusted with the stewardship of a famous and irreplaceable painting (the portrait popularly known as “Whistler’s Mother”). In Mr. Bean’s Holiday, his trip across the English Channel for a vacation is practically grounds for France to declare war on Great Britain. In both features, as well as the many Mr. Bean shorts that preceded them, Atkinson’s wordless, effortless slapstick and brilliantly escalating gags play well to audiences in any language, and to both kids and adults. He’s a resilient Everyman, one who faces the challenges of modern life with a little less brains than most of us but also more resourcefulness and mischief.
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