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Volume 91, Issue 29
Tuesday, October 21, 1997
Bean makes a scene
By Dan Yurman
About once a year, a movie comes around that knocks you out of your chair and has you howling on the floor for the whole two hours. For this to occur, the film has to have an outrageous premise, stellar acting and outstanding direction. The latest film of such caliber is Bean, the fantastic comedy starring Rowan Atkinson, the co-creator of the Mr. Bean comedy show that has swept the world in the last decade. To simply call Bean a film is to do it a grave injustice. It's more than a film. It is an experience one worth any price any movie theatre wishes to charge.
Atkinson plays Mr. Bean, a bumbling security guard at a London art museum, whom museum officials have dubbed "the worst employee in the museum's history." They want to fire him, but the head of the museum is Bean's biggest fan and forbids his dismissal. The officials decide they will send Bean to the Grierson Art Gallery in Los Angeles as their chief expert on Whistler's Mother, an impressionist painting the American gallery purchased for $50 million. The hope is the Americans will discover his lack of knowledge, grace and social skills and have no choice but to kill him.
While in America, Bean encounters all sorts of awkward situations which he promptly messes up and then resolves in the oddest of ways. Needless to say, by the end of the film, Bean is a hero. And nobody is the wiser except for the antagonist of the film, the curator of the Los Angeles museum, played brilliantly by Peter MacNicol.
Two factors make this film work so well: the tremendous talents of Rowan Atkinson and director Mel Smith. Atkinson's facial expressions, mannerisms and complete lack of social skills make Bean's character priceless. He is one of the few people who can stand there, do absolutely nothing and have an audience gasping for air. He is the perfect fool and the perfect hero. His treatment of the Bean script (or any of the Mr. Bean television scripts, for that matter) leaves the audience no choice but to root for this buffoon.
None of these characteristics would be possible, however, without the creative and intelligent direction of Mel Smith. His camera angles and editing patterns throughout the film portray Bean as a village idiot and a mad genius at the same time. Through the editing of the film, the relationship of Bean to the other characters and to the world in which he has been placed is brought to the forefront, which makes everything Atkinson does that much funnier. Smith's ability to capture just the right amount of amazement on the faces of every character Bean comes into contact with, pushes the film and leaves the audience wondering who Mr. Bean will baffle next and how much worse will it be. Smith proves with this film he truly is a great comic genius.
The preview for Bean seems like many things silly, slightly boring and quite childish. The fact is, Bean is one of the wittiest films of the year. There is never a dull moment in it and although there were a lot of kids in the theatre, it is by no means a "kid's" film. Bean is a masterpiece a true example of what happens when a master of physical comedy, a great script, a superb director and a little imagination come together.
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