Rated PG-13 - Running time: 1:30 - Reviewed 11/7/97

In judging a movie like Bean, one must use a completely different kind of measuring stick. This film is obviously not trying to win any Academy Awards; its purpose is to make people laugh in the quickest and least thought-provoking way possible. That said, I think it fulfills this job quite adequately. Probably more appealing to established fans of the BBC television series, Bean is an acquired taste. A sort of cross between Inspector Clouseau (at his worst moments) and Benny Hill (at his best), its title character, played by Rowan Atkinson, is the quintessential clumsy oaf. He is self-confident to the point of smugness, and because of this we can all look down on him and laugh. The film is little more than a showcase for Atkinson's broad slapstick comedy, overdone facial contortions, and bathroom humor.

The rather flimsy plot centers around an extremely eccentric guard at the London Art Gallery, Mr. Bean, who is sent on a trip to the U.S. to lecture at the unveiling of Whistler's Mother at an L.A. gallery. The gallery's curator, played by Chicago Hope veteran Peter MacNicol, invites the distinguished scholar to stay with him, hoping it to be a learning experience for his family. From there it's pretty predictable, with Bean getting into one mess after another and continually scrambling to cover his tracks. Although the original TV character never speaks, the producers were forced to give Atkinson a few lines here, which results in a kind of uncomfortable juxtaposition of styles. For most of the film, Bean is a sort of modern-day Chaplin, relying completely on physical comedy and the occasional grunt. When he delivers his long-awaited speech, competent if a bit halting, one wonders why he hasn't spoken up before. The film appears to be of very little substance until near the end, where it redeems itself considerably. It's worth a few laughs, if you don't think too much. ***

Copyright 1997 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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