After an impressive worldwide performance, Bean, the film adaptation of the British television comedy Mr. Bean, makes its debut in the United States. Rowan Atkinson, the British comic who plays the lightwitted Mr. Bean, is probably most well known to the American audience by his voice (that of Zazu in The Lion King). However, the recognization will not come easy, for you see Mr. Bean doesn’t talk much. He’s a man of very little words, but with the style of overexaggerated slapstick comedy that reminds one of the silent-film era. However, Mr. Bean should have used a better vehicle for his feature film debut. One of his half-hour shows would have been infinitely more entertaining than this ninety minute display of drudgery.
The story opens with Mr. Bean’s employers wondering what to do with their overly-inept employee. Suddenly, they are struck by inspiration. An American museum has recently purchased the painting Whistler’s Mother, and has requested an art expert to speak at its inauguration. Sending Mr. Bean away on an extended trip sounds like an excellent idea.
Of course, Mr. Bean doesn’t know the slightest thing about art. But that doesn’t keep everyone in L.A. from thinking he’s the world’s greatest art professor. David Leary (Peter MacNicol) is the American responsible for bringing in Mr. Bean. And it isn’t until Mr. Bean has caused him to separate from his wife (Pamela Reed), and nearly lose his job at the museum that he begins to question “Dr. Bean”‘s credentials.
The film is actually best during its second half hour. The first third of the movie is concerned with setting up the film, and introducing the Mr. Bean character, his mannerisms and his quirks. It’s not until the second half hour that Atkinson is left to really do his thing. However, the final third of the film turns unrelentingly sappy, as the film pulls one too many “cutesy” touches to show that Mr. Bean may cause the occassional mishap, but he means well.
One of the problems is the boring supporting cast. As long as the camera’s on Mr. Bean, at least there’s a chance something funny might happen. Not so with anyone else. MacNicol is dreadfully bland as the straight man to Bean’s wild activities, and too much of the film is devoted to him, and his problems with his family and his job.
Part of the blame belongs to director Mel Smith. He needed to let the film concentrate on Mr. Bean (after all, the film is named after him). Instead, the film drifts.
Perhaps the best thing that might come of Bean is that people confused by the advertisements might accidentally watch the reruns of his British TV show. At least they have some chance of being entertained.