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."
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
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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