Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie (1997)

Untitled-1Bean is an unintelligent movie, populated by unintelligent characters. But it’s not meant for unintelligent people. It is what it is: A tale of Mr. Bean. Anyone going into this movie should be aware of who Mr. Bean is. If he’s foreign to you, if his contorted face and spastic walk are unfamiliar to you, I suggest you not see this film. You’d spend a good 90% of the time wondering why the man is such a buffoon. And after you’ve looked him up on Wikipedia and sampled a few of his popular British TV episodes, you’d be face-palming yourself to sleep.

Bean is played by Rowan Atkinson as a dim-witted average joe. Sometimes I wonder why Atkinson agreed to take on the part that would forever chain him to the character. Did he know when he was filming the TV series that he’d become such an icon (sometimes for the wrong reasons)? I suppose not. But for him to take on this movie knowing full well the kind of reputation Bean has cultivated across the globe is something of a mystery. Nevertheless, I like him. I like Bean, and all his obliviousness. I like the way he stumbles into problematic situations of his own making without realising that it’s his own making. He’s a walking catastrophe, but his ignorance saves him a little. He’s not necessarily funny, but the things he does are. He’s not attractive, but his good-natured heart is. He’s not smart, but his ability to improvise gives him an air of intelligence, much like Chauncey Gardiner. The movie is preposterous, but with a character like Bean in it, preposterous is a good thing.

There is actually a plot, believe it or not. Bean works for the Royal National Gallery of London. His superiors want him gone, and since someone in America has just bought Whistler’s Mother from England, they decide to send him to Los Angeles, posing as an art aficionado facilitating the transfer. He arrives, after a somewhat eventful plane ride, and bunks with the Grierson Art Gallery’s curator, David (Peter MacNicol). At first David finds Bean to be a little eccentric, but his wife (Pamela Reed) can see right through him and immediately takes him for the fool that he is. She and the kids move out, and Bean subsequently turns the original Whistler’s Mother into an amusing internet meme. Now it’s a race against the clock to restore the painting before its grand launch.

There are some funny jokes in here. The best comes towards the end. It involves an angry biker and the little hand gesture he inadvertently teaches Bean, who later parades the gesture around Sunset Boulevard and Beverley Hills as if he’s wishing everyone a happy day. MacNicol is occasionally funny as David. He’s able to raise his insanity bar to just the right height, perfectly matching Atkinson’s, but never overshadowing him. Atkinson remains the star — if you can call any character of this movie a “star” — and just watching him strut his stuff is enough to satisfy me. Bean is by no means a masterpiece, but is it a horrible movie? If you’re a fan of the original TV series like I am, the answer is nothing short of a crude hand gesture.

Best Moment | There are a few: The last bit I mentioned, Bean accidentally reviving a traumatised girl in hospital, and the explosion of vomit aboard the plane.

Worst Moment | There are also a few. I’ll leave it to you to decide.

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