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Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie

Warning: this page contains spoilers!

I've been watching Mr Bean episodes since the first one came out, although I've only seen a couple from the animated series. I saw this film when it first came out in the cinema (in 1997), and several times since on video (in fact, my tape is now starting to wear out after so many repeated viewings.) It's always guaranteed to cheer me up if I'm feeling unhappy.

One good thing about this film is that it's not simply an extended episode (a criticism that some people made of Star Trek: Generations). The episodes were normally 2 or 3 separate short scenes, with very little (if anything) to connect them, whereas this flowed as a continuous story.

Personally, I think that Bean is a more complex character than many people give him credit for. For instance, look at what was established during the episodes. We know that he has an interest in adult education. He doesn't have many friends, although not for want of trying, e.g. when he threw a New Year's Eve party, and everyone made excuses to leave early. He lives alone, and at Christmas, the only cards he received were the ones he sent to himself. So, even if he's unpopular, what happened to his family? Presumably they're either dead, or he's not in touch with them. Then in the film, he said: "As I've learned by staying with my best friend, David Langley, and his family - families are very important." So, he didn't learn that from his own family. And he has photos of the Langleys on his wall at home, rather than his relatives. Maybe he was orphaned at an early age, but not adopted? I think that we are looking at a man who has been starved of affection for most of his life, which may explain some of his personality quirks.

I've had discussions with friends in the past, about the distinction between being childlike and childish. The basic conclusion I've come to is that being childlike means having a sense of wonder, and innocence. Being childish, on the other hand, means being petty and spiteful. In Bean's case, he has an adult's freedom to indulge a child's whims, and he makes the most of this. He isn't generally malicious - he was a bit cruel to the security guard in the film, but there was some karmic justice when he hit his head on the dangling sculpture outside the museum. And like the average schoolchild, he finds art galleries rather boring.

While he is often a self-centred character, he does help other people out from time to time. For instance, he obviously impressed the chairman of the National Gallery in London, although the details are still vague. I would also contend that he isn't irrational (despite what Langley said in the film) - like "Kirkian logic", his decisions do make a certain kind of sense, but they're based on a slightly different model of reality. Most of his exploits come from "It seemed like a good idea at the time", coupled with some bad luck, where things just go wrong for him.

Digressing slightly, I think that the reason lots of people disliked Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation (aside from envy) is that he never had to take responsibility for his actions. E.g. "Wesley, your school science project almost destroyed the Enterprise, which would have killed 1000 people. Try not to do it again, eh?" Compare this to Jennings and Darbishire in Anthony Buckeridge's novels. In Bean's case, he keeps digging himself into a deeper hole (as seen with the painting), and this makes him a sympathetic character.

Aside from the character analysis, this is a comedy film. I personally found it very funny, but this will depend on your sense of humour. There's certainly a large element of slapstick, which appeals to me. There is also some subtler humour there too. For instance, one scene begins with a group of people entering, who have evidently just concluded a security tour. The security guard is saying: "So, as you can see, the underground ventilation ducts are completely secure", while the gallery owner has a rather dazed look on his face; it is left to the viewer's imagination to visualise what he's had to deal with. It does drift towards "gross-out humour" in a couple of places, which doesn't really appeal to me. On the other hand, it seems fairly tame compared to more recent films, so there's nothing really offensive in there.

When they get to the hospital, it may seem as if it's going to be a mawkish scene, but it isn't. But it's not a spoof either - this doesn't follow the pattern of the Naked Gun films, for instance. It's almost like a crossover, where the rest of the hospital staff could have come out of ER, while Bean is following his own set of rules.

Mind you, to be vaguely balanced, I'd disagree with the description of motorbikes as "deathtraps".

There are some deleted scenes at the end of the VHS tape (although curiously not on the DVD). I can agree with the decision to omit them for pacing reasons, but it would be nice to have an option to view them in the film (like the DVD release of Fellowship of the Ring, with 30 mins of extra footage). The only exception is the turkey scene - since we've already seen that in the series, it doesn't really make sense for him to make the same silly mistake twice, when there are so many new and exciting mistakes he could be making instead. In any case, it's interesting to watch them, as they are entertaining, and clarify a couple of scenes in the film.

Regarding the soundtrack, there were some great choices of songs. In particular, "Yesterday" (which summed up how much had gone wrong with Langley's life in such a short space of time), and "He's a rebel" (which does describe Bean's attitude in certain respects). As well as being appropriate, they are also good songs in their own right.

I saw an interview with Rowan Atkinson recently (publicising Johnny English), and he mentioned the possibility of a sequel to this film. I certainly hope they make one, as I'd like to see it.

This page was last updated on 2003-12-29 by John C. Kirk

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