Big-screen 'Bean' remains a very funny troublemaker

November 07, 1997|By Michael Rechtshaffen | Michael Rechtshaffen,HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

Having already conquered half the moviegoing world, "Bean" is finally ready to take on fickle American audiences.

Given the gales of laughter that rocked a recent preview screening, expect an immediate and unprecedented surrender. Simply put, "Bean" is the hands-down funniest picture in recent years -- an all-ages blast.

That probably won't be news to those who have already been Beaned by Rowan Atkinson's side-splitting series of small-screen adventures, but even so, the transition to features could have been a tricky one. Fortunately, with "Mr. Bean" co-creator Richard Curtis ("Four Weddings and a Funeral") and fellow series writer Robin Driscoll on board with director Mel Curtis ("The Tall Guy"), the move couldn't have gone more

smoothly.

Of course, Atkinson deserves most of the credit. His Mr. Bean is an irresistible combination of wide-eyed troublemaker and eternal naif. He's a man of few words and fewer social graces whose every movement has young and old alike screaming with laughter.

Not that he really needs one, but the plot concerns itself with London's National Art Gallery sending "Whistler's Mother" to the Los Angeles gallery that has purchased it. Accompanying the masterpiece is none other than the British gallery's shiftless employee, Mr. Bean, whom the board members, eager to be rid && of him, pass off as an esteemed art expert.

The charade doesn't exactly go without a hitch. Initially flattered to have the newly dubbed Dr. Bean staying at his home, Grierson Gallery curator David Langley (Peter MacNicol) ultimately loses his family and a good chunk of his mind when his guest's antics culminate in the hilarious destruction of one of the most recognizable works in American art history.

While the film itself dips a little in the middle, Atkinson's brilliant, seemingly effortless brand of physical comedy sustains the buoyant pace. And although the concept of supporting performances would appear to be superfluous here, MacNicol more than holds his own as Bean's quietly flappable host, as does Pamela Reed as MacNicol's no-nonsense wife. Also fun in a smaller part is Burt Reynolds as the gung-ho Gen. Newton, a man who admits to knowing nothing about art but realizes the patriotic value of reclaiming American property from "the Frenchies."

'Bean'

Starring Rowan Atkinson, Peter MacNicol and Pamela Reed

Directed by Mel Smith

Released by Gramercy Pictures

Rated PG-13 (crude humor, slapstick violence)

Sun score: *** 1/2

Pub Date: 11/07/97

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