Some characters are memorable, no matter why they were created. For whatever reason, the character resonates and lasts longer than the creator maintains hime or her. For Rowan Atkinson, his character Mr. Bean may be his best known. Mr. Bean began to form while Atkinson was at Oxford doing his Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering. The character’s earliest appearances includes Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival in 1987] and on a 1990 Thames Television special. Fifteen episodes of Mr. Bean were created between 1990 and 1995 for first Thames then for Central Independent Television.
Mr. Bean is essentially pantomime, using and requiring very little dialogue. Atkinson’s physical comedy, from facial expressions to body language, carries the episodes for the most part. He used his appearance at Just For Laughs to see if the character’s humour transcended the language barrier by asking to be placed on the French programme track. Mr. Bean’s appeal lies in his core concept, a man and his teddy bear in a world that they don’t understand nor are understood by. Mr. Bean is a man-child who goes into everyday situations and makes his own way through life.
The character gained popularity in North American thanks to the CBC in Canada and HBO and PBS in the US. Naturally, if something is popular, a studio will adapt it to film. Or, in the case of Bean, studios – Working Title Films and Tiger Aspect Films. The goal was to bring Mr. Bean to the silver screen and to new audiences. Rowan Atkinson is once again the title character, with Peter MacNicol, Pamela Reed, Harris Yulin, Larry Drake, and Burt Reynolds co-starring. The plot is simple enough; Mr. Bean has to accompany the painting, Whistler’s Mother, from the Royal National Gallery in London to its new home at the Grierson Art Gallery. Bean, though, is not the best employee at the National Gallery. Staff at the Grierson Art Gallery, though, are expecting Dr. Bean, having gotten confused on what Bean does. It doesn’t help that Bean describes his job as sitting in a chair and looking at paintings.
Mr. Bean becomes a force of chaos in the lives of the Langleys. David (MacNicol) and Alison (Reed) are on shaky ground with their marriage as it is. The arrival of Mr. Bean, is the flashpoint. During the chaos of preparing for the revealing of Whistler’s Mother, David starts realizing that Mr. Bean might not be the art historian he was led to believe. After a dry run for the reveal ceremony, David confirms with Bean that the latter knows nothing about art. While David tries to make sure that Bean doesn’t have to be involved in the ceremony, he leaves the Englishman with the painting. A wayward sneeze leads to the painting getting defaced. Mr. Bean’s best efforts don’t help. However, just as Mr. Bean is a force of chaos, he can get things done, albeit in an unorthodox way. Fixing the painting, fixing the Langleys, and getting a vacation drive the film to the end, with Mr. Bean triumphant in the end.
The movie doesn’t change much about Mr. Bean beyond showing what he does for work. Even that is more to get the plot going than anything else. There’s some reuse of gags from the TV series, but nothing that would throw off fans. Mr. Bean is still funny even in reruns, after all. The main problem with the film is that the plot often gets in the way of watching Mr. Bean. The character works well as pantomime, but with a larger cast than a TV episode, dialogue gets added. The result is a movie in two parts, one focused with Mr. Bean, the other happening around him.
Bean the Movie works as an introduction of the character to a new audience, providing a traditional storytelling structure to unleash Mr. Bean into. For fans, the plot gets in the way of what they want to see, but there is plenty of Mr. Bean in the film to satisfy. The balance is difficult to maintain, though. Overall, the movie adapts the character well, but the balance needed some adjusting.