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Movie Review: Bean -- The British comedy classic gets finessed onto the big screen

By Teresa Huang
Staff Reporter

Everybody's favorite clown in a brown suit, Mr. Bean, arrives in America and on the big screen with his movie debut Bean. Though British fans might feel differently, the movie is a terrific comedy that's entertaining and effective in spreading the joy of Mr. Bean and British comedy to the world.

The story begins as the prestigious board of Britain's Royal National Gallery discuss their recent sale of James Abbott McNeil Whistler's famous painting "Whistler's Mother" to the Grierson Gallery in Los Angeles. American curator David Langley, played by Peter MacNicol (Dracula: Dead and Loving It), is thrilled that one of the greatest U.S. paintings is returning to its home country and asks the Royal National Gallery to send a representative to officiate the opening of the exhibit.

Enter Mr. Bean, a caretaker at the gallery who can fall asleep and fall off a chair at the same time. The gallery's bigwigs, unable to fire Mr. Bean due to their chairman's devotion to the man, decide to wash their hands of him and ship him off to America as their representative. How this is any sort of solution isn't terribly clear, but nevertheless, Mr. Bean leaves Teddy and his country behind and heads for the golden land of opportunity.

And so begins the wackiness and childish hysterics that are Mr. Bean. While Mr. Bean grapples with a land where he can't seem to be himself without getting arrested, Langley and his family deal with this strange man in their house who doesn't appear to be the brilliant art doctorate-toting expert on "Whistler's Mother" they believed he was.

Rowan Atkinson's unforgettable character Mr. Bean took the U.K. by storm in 1989 and has become, thanks to syndication in the U.S. and all over the globe, a universal character embodying child-like innocence and slapstick mischief. Though Atkinson has had memorable movie roles, like Father Gerald in Four Weddings and a Funeral and the voice of Zazu in The Lion King, and although his British comedy Blackadder is hailed as his funniest television series, Mr. Bean remains the character he is most commonly associated with. The production of Bean, his first feature film, by an American film company has caused somewhat of a stir among loyal British fans, who fear that his character may be "dumbed-down" to satisfy our feeble minds.

Indeed, loyal fans are likely to be annoyed by Mr. Bean's presentation in the movie in general. His pantomime humor loses something with the absence of laughter from a hysterical live audience and with the addition of a booming soundtrack. Surrounding him with a score of serious actors and a legitimate plot also produces a strange dynamic in which the normal people around him almost nullify his absurdity. In his television series, Mr. Bean was a weirdo and the people around him were either comically disgusted by him or simply ignored his weirdness. In short, his actions didn't have any serious consequences. In Bean, the people in his surroundings take him seriously, and instead of being his usual carefree self, Mr. Bean seems constantly under judgement.

But despite the somewhat inconsistent preservation of Mr. Bean's British persona, director Mel Smith (Radioland Murders) makes the combination of improbability and gravity work. Bean is one laugh after the other as he gets himself into deeper and deeper trouble in America as the gallery gets closer and closer to the grand opening of "Whistler's Mother," where the supposedly brilliant art professor Dr. Bean is expected to give a speech. Before the movie is over, Mr. Bean gets his head stuck in a turkey, learns the universal sign of friendship from a biker, and, of course, saves the day. The supporting actors in the film give great performances, especially MacNicol and Pamela Reed as the patient hosts of Mr. Bean. Burt Reynolds provides a short but humorous cameo.

The sight of his enormous head on a big screen may be somewhat intimidating, but Mr. Bean really does have a heart of gold and his American adventure in Bean is a great ride. The blend of comedy and Mr. Bean tragedy is refined, yet subtle, and his triumphs will have you cheering. Enjoy his antics and pray for a sequel. Perhaps Mr. Bean Goes to Washington?

Directed by Mel Smith

Written by Rowan Atkinson, Richard Curtis, and Robin Driscoll

Starring Rowan Atkinson, Peter MacNicol, Pamela Reed, Harris Yulin, and Burt Reynolds