Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Bean

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Bean

Article excerpt

Bean (Gramercy Pictures), the full-length feature based on the oddball British TV character created by Rowan Atkinson is apparently a runaway hit in Europe. As someone who has enjoyed many of Bean's comic sketches on TV, I was surprised to find that the movie often falls flat.

Atkinson himself is a world-class comedian with a wonderfully elastic face, as teenage fans of the Black Adder (another of his incarnations) discovered some time back, and older audiences ratified when they met him as an incompetent minister in "Four Weddings and a Funeral." Even a staid NCR editor (if there is one) will find it hard not to laugh when, early in the movie, Bean completes his morning ritual of shaving his nose and tongue, and goes on to construct his morning coffee in stages -- imbibing instant coffee, sugar, and milk before pouring hot water into his throat.

And the film's basic situation, though wildly improbable, is adequate. Bean, a spectacularly incompetent security guard at the Royal National Gallery in London, is sent to Los Angeles to accompany the portrait of Whistler's mother, which has been purchased by the Grierson Gallery and is to be unveiled with high ceremony and a learned talk.

The problem is, though there are a few laugh-out-loud moments, we soon begin to feel that Atkinson -- and the movie -- are trying too hard. It's not only that there are no moments of repose (as when a Marx Brothers farce slows down to let Chico play the piano or Harpo the harp) but that Atkinson isn't given anyone to play against. W. C. Fields always had recognizable targets for his spleen -- a child, a domineering wife, the law. …

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