Mr. Bean’s Holiday (2007) - Pick

A Mighty Heart (2007) - Pick


When it comes to brilliantly mindless slapstick humor, Americans don’t know Bean. New this week on DVD, Mr. Bean’s Holiday is a charming and winsome family comedy that outperformed such crass American hits as Knocked Up, Superbad and Norbit — at the worldwide box office. Yet it barely made a ripple in the United States, where hit comedies are dumb and dumber, not dumb and smarter.

That’s a shame, because Holiday, starring Rowan Atkinson as his signature alter ego, is a treat — sweet, good-hearted, genuinely clever.

Atkinson is a credit to the tradition of Charlie Chaplin, Jacques Tati and Jerry Lewis. Even if you don’t like Jerry Lewis, that’s still a good thing.

The uncomprehending, moronic/angelic Bean inadvertently wreaks havoc everywhere he goes, but does so with the perfect timing and conceptual wit of Chaplin’s Little Tramp. (Compare the brilliant scene in which Bean and a stranger inadvertently wind up in one another’s taxicabs to the classic scene in City Lights with the Tramp, the expensive car and the blind flower girl.)

As good as Atkinson is, the film is mildly amusing for the first half-hour or so, but then catches fire in a hilarious scene with Bean and a young boy (excellent Max Baldry) earning money doing street theater.

As Bean runs afoul of a narcissistic American film director (hilarious Willem Dafoe) on his way to Cannes, the film has some fun at the expense of Hollywood and the film industry.

Emma de Caunes is thoroughly charming as an actress named Sabine who inadvertently falls in with Bean. Definitely worth catching.

Another recent DVD release, A Mighty Heart is a solid, more than respectable drama about a recent tragedy — the kidnapping and murder of Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl by Muslim terrorists — that successfully negotiates two potentially fatal pitfalls.

First, it avoids the danger of milking the story for melodrama and easy platitudes, a la Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center, instead telling the story in a restrained, respectful manner.

Second, it avoids stumbling over the potentially distracting star power and tabloid baggage of Angelina Jolie, who by rights shouldn’t be able to star in a film like this without ruining suspension of disbelief, and yet winds up doing herself and the film credit.

Directed by Michael Winterbottom, the film stars Jolie as Mariane Pearl, the pregnant wife and eventually widow of Daniel. The story’s focus on law enforcement efforts to find Pearl keep the film from becoming a star vehicle; when Jolie shows up onscreen, it’s because her character is needed. It’s engrossing, sober, thought-provoking fare.


Content advisory

Mr. Bean’s Holiday: Slapstick violence; brief toilet humor; mild danger to a child (separation from parents). Fine family viewing. A Mighty Heart: Images of battlefield violence; some gun violence; scenes of aggressive interrogation/torture of a suspect by police; disturbing references to beheading; brief flashbacks of marital intimacy (no explicit nudity); much obscene language both sexual and otherwise; some profanity. Mature viewing.