Bean (1997)

(In French, On TV, September 2015) All movies ask for a bit of indulgence as they take off from reality, and this is truer in slapstick comedy where we’re asked to play along what is obviously ludicrous.  Of course, you have to be willing to give in.  So it is that a high compliment that I can give to Bean is the way it manages to be funny despite my mild dislike for the character.  Rowan Atkinson is an exceptional comedian, but I’d rather re-watch the verbal wittiness of his Blackadder series than to suffer through much of his dim-witted Bean character.  The movie certainly doesn’t try to move away from the essence of the character: Bean is still terrifyingly stupid and the world around him seems to adjust itself in consequence.  Characters behave in brain-damaged ways, which to say that the comedy here is broad enough to let anything through.  Bits of the TV shows are repeated nearly verbatim, further cementing the film’s dedication to its protagonist.  And yet, despite my dislike for that kind of stuff, I did find myself chuckling more often than I should, especially in the last third of the film when Bean improbably acquires some idiot-savant skills and manages to pull off a half-clever scheme.  SO it is with reluctant admiration that I doff my hat at Bean’s success in making me laugh even when I didn’t want to.  One notes, however, that I ended up watching not only the French version of the film, but (due to Ami Télé’s intentional accessibility policy) the Described Audio French version of the film, in which a narrator describes Bean’s on-screen antics in a deadpan fashion.  It almost goes without saying that this makes the film quite a bit better, or at least far more pleasant absurd to watch.

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