A decade ago, the first cinema venture for Rowan Atkinson's cherishably eccentric comic creation was rather scuppered by a misguided plot which had Bean accompanying a famous painting to an LA gallery (why?). Still, the worldwide box-office take was healthy enough to make this sequel inevitable, and it's certainly an improvement. This time, Simon McBurney's storyline makes sense on Bean's terms: thanks to a church raffle, he's won a holiday to the South of France, and he's determined to make it to the Med in one piece. This entails negotiating the Eurostar, Parisian taxis and the TGV, while not losing his passport or the camcorder with which he's documenting the trip. All on three words of French -- 'oui', 'non' and 'gracias'.
It's an astute set-up which has plenty of room for individual set-pieces -- you'll never look at a langoustine quite the same way again after Bean takes on the plateau de fruits de mer -- but maintains momentum as the flexibly featured one encounters a lost Russian boy, Emma de Caunes' aspiring actress and Willem Dafoe's egomaniac filmmaker, all en route to the Cannes Film Festival. With its obvious nods to Tati, a surprise for Charles Trenet lovers and much humour at the expense of celluloid pretensions, there's ample diversion here for even the snootiest cinemagoer, inclusively set alongside the expected cavalcade of adeptly choreographed pratfalls to tickle the family audience. 'He's just Mr Funny!' piped up one excited little boy in the row behind me at the preview, and even if the final reel perhaps takes contrivance further than one's goodwill would usually allow, that's still a pretty fair assessment.