5 November 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

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 will keep Gramercy bean counters beaming for weeks to come.

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 along 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 giddy 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 just purchased it. Accompanying the masterpiece is none other than the British gallery's shiftless employee, Mr. Bean, who 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 devastating (and 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

Gramercy Pictures

PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

presents A Working Title production

in association with Tiger Aspect Films

A film by Mel Smith

Director: Mel Smith

Producers: Peter Bennett-Jones,

Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan

Screenwriters: Richard Curtis, Robin Driscoll

Executive producer: Richard Curtis

Director of photography: Francis Kenny

Production designer: Peter Larkin

Editor: Christopher Blunden

Costume designer: Hope Hanafin

Music: Howard Goodall

Casting: Ronnie Yeskel

Color/stereo

Cast:

Mr. Bean: Rowan Atkinson

David Langley: Peter MacNicol

Alison Langley: Pamela Reed

George Grierson: Harris Yulin

Stingo: Johnny Galecki

Kevin Langley: Andrew J. Lawrence

Jennifer Langley: Tricia Vessey

Gen. Newton: Burt Reynolds

Running time -- 87 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13


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