It's a safe bet that kids will eat up this latest slice of slapstick, in which Mr Bean's struggle to take a relaxing French holiday is thwarted by a lost child, a hungry vending machine, an egomaniac film director (a campy Willem Dafoe) and the intricacies of Gallic public transport. However, parents who sat stony-faced through the original Bean are in for a surprise: from an adult perspective, Mr Bean's Holiday is not all that bad.
It's hard to explain the appeal of Mr Bean. At first glance, he seems to be moulded from the primordial clay of nightmares: a leering man-child with a body like a tangle of tweed-coated pipe cleaners and the gurning, window-licking countenance of a suburban sex offender. It's a testament to Rowan Atkinson's skill that, by the end of the film he seems almost cuddly.
"PURE PHYSICAL COMEDY"
Perhaps it is the influence of Simon McBurney (of Theatre de Complicite) on the script, or the absence of Mel Smith as director. For whatever reason, the flatulent humour of the first film has given way to pure physical comedy. There's nothing in his pratfalls to match the brilliance of, say, Harold Lloyd, but Atkinson is still an inspired physical comedian - as he demonstrates in a busking sequence that moves seamlessly from Shaggy to high opera. And for dads, there's the appealing sight of Emma De Caunes in a low-cut dress to pass the time. A pity they didn't go with the original title, French Bean.
Mr Bean's Holiday is released in UK cinemas on Friday 30th March 2007.