Universal, where have you Bean?
If you’ve been following the coverage of the high definition formats recently, you’ve probably noticed a fair amount of negative press surrounding many of Universal’s most recent transfers, with many agreeing that their treatment, especially of catalogue titles, has left something to be desired. For the record, I thought The Skeleton Key and The Bourne Identity looked fairly decent, whereas Lost in Translation, The Game, Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind could charitably be considered average-looking. Every now and then, however, Universal puts out a disc which reminds us that they really can deliver the goods when they feel like it. Their latest is Mr. Bean’s Holiday, which features a visual presentation that I’m sure many are going to say is better than the film itself deserves. My copy arrived yesterday from Play (its UK street date is tomorrow), and, barring a terribly minor amount of filtering, which leads to the occasional bit or ringing on high contrast edges, it looks absolutely perfect: a very high “9” on my HD image quality scale and just about on par with the much-lauded Blu-ray release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (without the noticeable edge enhancement, into the bargain).
As for the film itself, it’s no masterpiece - but you probably knew that already, didn’t you? The critics gave it a complete slating, but in my opinion it’s really not that bad, and considerably funnier than The Simpsons Movie, the only other 2007 comedy I’ve seen so far. I actually laughed out loud several times, and if the plot doesn’t appear particularly substantial, then at least it’s more faithful to the original television series than the previous movie, which rather clumsily shoehorned Mr. Bean into an American family and a rather unconvincing storyline. This one is mainly an excuse for Rowan Atkinson to indulge in various extended episodes of physical comedy, and as a result it really does feel as if someone has given the TV show a larger budget and plonked it on the big screen. Like the previous film, it tends to reuse gags (with Atkinson even delving into a routine from his stand-up days on one occasion), but it’s undemanding, and its good-naturedness is quite infectious.