Bean (1997)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Screwball Comedy, Slapstick  |   Release Date - Oct 17, 1997 (USA - Limited), Nov 7, 1997 (USA)  |   Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom, United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Karl Williams

A monster hit internationally, this comedy showcases the physically expressive talents of actor Rowan Atkinson, who provides a few major laughs in elaborate slapstick sequences, some of them cribbed wholesale from his winning British TV series featuring the same character. Atkinson is a comic gem, a throwback to an earlier era of silent screen legends such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, and his gifts are most fully realized in the mealy-mouthed, unflappably odd-duck character of Bean. Overall, however, the film suffers the same fate as many other projects in translation from the small screen to the big, experienced most frequently in the attempt to transform sketches from the NBC series Saturday Night Live to the cinema. In dumbing down the jokes, "opening up" a character (read: making an oddball less offensive), and generally seeking to broaden the appeal of a skit that might have been obscure or off-putting to some segment of the audience, mainstream films repeatedly sap their source material of the original humor. Such is often the case in this silly concoction that seeks to Americanize a thoroughly British invention by shooting it in the sun-drenched, rainbow-colored hues that scream "Comedy!" for the funny bone-impaired, even tossing actor Burt Reynolds into the addled mix -- as a general, no less. Worse, Mr. Bean is shockingly verbose in comparison to his earlier incarnations, a development that may have been essential to the narrative but robs the quirky spasmodic of his rib-tickling charm. Bean is a worthy attempt to bring a little-known comic's abundant skills to light, but the filmmakers don't trust their audience to "get it," with the end result suffering a serious case of lowest common denominator.