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Sunday, 7 October 2018

Retro Review: Bean: The Movie (1997)

Bean: The Movie
Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Peter MacNicol, Pamela Reed, Harris Yulin, Burt Reynolds, Sandra Oh
Genre: Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $251 million

Plot: The bumbling Mr Bean travels to America when he is given the responsibility of bringing a highly valuable painting to a Los Angeles museum

'Bumbling Bean Movie That Fumbles With Comedy & Story, But Still Promising First Outing For Franchise'

British Comedian and actor, Rowan Atkinson has carved out numerous creations, Blackadder, Mr Bean and Johnny English for audiences and fans, with the latter for the big screen. With Bean, this film adaptation gives him the opportunity to utilise and transfer the characters' antics to full effect. Be that as it may, compared to the series, unfortunately, Bean The Movie barely sustains laughs beyond the 30 min sketch show format.

From some observants, Atkinson as Mr Bean has elements of Jerry Lewis, Pee Wee Herman and Charlie Chaplin and he is something of a British TV icon. Mr Bean aired in over 90 countries around the world and given the lack of dialogue on each episode means the visual and slapstick humour can be best enjoyed and easily understood and picked up by non-English speakers. 

Strangely, the plot has the self-titled character heading off to Los Angeles undercover and head off to an art gallery. Once he gets there, he is entrusted to the care of the gallery curator, his wife and ends up making mistakes & wrecking havoc wherever he goes. 

Mr Bean is an eccentric, yet also an endearing character, who sometimes isn't aware of the effects of his actions. There is almost a child-like, innocent quality that even though he does silly and stupid things, it is not done intentionally or malicious in a way that makes people hate that character. He is clumsy, but also accident-prone. It is one of the reasons why, when it comes to buffoonish comedy and comedy film characters Mr Bean has garnered a huge following from fans across the globe. That, and his humour is so easy to grasp and immerse oneself in. 

There are some funny moments involving a sickbag on an airplane, when Mr Bean is drinking tea by eating the sugar, drinking the milk, drinking hot water from the kettle, as well as drying his crotch area of his trousers/pants under a hand dryer! - or the way he does it, which many will find gross and amusing at the same time. The humour is visual and slapstick in its approach, but not gut-busting and rip-roaringly funny to have me howling in laughter.

The weakest aspect of the movie is the supporting cast and somehow the transition of the Bean formula from TV format to feature film doesn't quite pan out as well as I'd hoped it would do. Atkinson is the main reason to see Bean and his character dominates proceedings, whilst Peter MacNichol (Ghostbusters II, Ally McBeal), Pamela Reed (The Best of Times, Kindergarten Cop, Junior) are sidelined & the late Burt Reynolds has precious little to do. There is also a short appearance by Canadian Korean actress, pre-Grey's Anatomy's Sandra Oh. One would argue, however, that the Mr Bean series has never been about the other characters: they are one-line jokes, they, more or less, act as the punchline or ammunition for the gags & jokes to land well. & with Bean where they have more of a say, as opposed to being silent characters, I guess this is something that had to be incorporated for a movie version because you can't just have a comedy movie with no spoken dialogue. Although many of Charlie Chaplin's films have been silent comedies, and yet also they are also very short in length. This film, Bean is not so short; in fact, it runs for 1hr, 30 mins.  

One CNN review of 1997 ran a headline that says, 'Bean' Makes You Forget Jim Carrey'; for starters, whilst the Mr Bean character employs the use of physical comedy both Rowan Atkinson and Jim Carrey are two different comic actors with varying styles: Carrey's madcap shenanigans that tend to be verging on the Robin Williams' improvisational side of things and Rowan Atkinson's other characters rely on language and a more deadpan style. But also given his experience as a theatre actor, that deadpan and almost sarcastic nature of the delivery of his lines as characters such as Blackadder and Johnny English, served him well throughout his career and thus, makes him extremely adept and versatile as a comic actor.

I suppose had Bean: The Movie had a more engaging plot and better and more frequent slapstick moments, this would have made it a tad more enduring. 

Final Verdict

Whilst it could have benefited from having a sillier, yet funnier script, Mr Bean's first cinematic outing is a promising one and for anyone who hasn't seen Mr Bean's TV show before, Bean: The Movie is an interesting starting point, although it is ideal to watch a few episodes of the series, first & foremost and afterwards see this movie.


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