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THE BEST OF MR. BEAN

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Rowan Atkinson
Directors:  Various
Audio:  Dolby Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  A&E
Features:  Documentary, Rowan Atkinson Biography/Filmography
Length:  125 Minutes
Release Date:  August 29, 2006

“Look, Teddy!”

Shows ****

Mr. Bean is an enduring comedy creation…I know this because every time we’ve run a contest on our website for a Bean DVD title, the response is greater for it than anything else we offer.  Mr. Bean is timeless because his humor is broad and not topical, his situations are easy enough to identify with, and his childlike demeanor is winning and unforgettable.  And it all comes down to the genius who created him, Mr. Rowan Atkinson.

A&E has offered the complete adventures of the lovable bungler in their terrific DVD set The Whole Bean, and for my money, that’s still the best way to go.  But always considerate of fans with tighter budgets, the studio has now released a single disc of The Best of Mr. Bean.  It’s tightly presented, compact, and wonderfully watchable.

Before the disc came out, I actually sat back and thought…which five episodes of Mr. Bean would I have chosen, having seen them all many times through?  I came up with three that were definite must-haves, and too many tied for the last two slots.  I’m glad I didn’t have to chose.  The folks at A&E had the task, and they performed marvelously:  my three top episodes were here, and I have no quibbles with the ones chosen for the fourth and fifth positions.

From the first show “Mr. Bean”, it was clear to comedy fans that Rowan Atkinson had really arrived.  Yes, he had done memorably and endlessly hilarious takes on Not the 9 O’Clock News and Blackadder, but Bean for him was like Buster Keaton’s stone face or Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp.  It was an instantly perfect comic creation; physical and expressive, swimming in both broad slapstick and sublime subtlety.

The first three vignettes are all masterpieces, from Mr. Bean’s mishaps taking a final exam to his attempts to change into swim trunks in full view on a beach, to his hysterical hijinks in church.  These set the tone for the show and for the character; anything was possible, and most everything was tried.

My personal favorite bit from the whole series is when Mr. Bean and his longsuffering girlfriend take in a horror movie.  You never see the screen, but Mr. Bean’s reactions are enough to keep your imagination running wild…I howl every time I see that one, and it’s one of the Mr. Bean sketches I carry around on my iPod.

The Best Of disc is like an all highlight reel, or in the case of Bean, a solid collection of bloopers.  What else could you call it when he loses his pants in a community swimming pool?  Or orders steak tartare in a fancy restaurant not knowing exactly what it is?  Or his mishaps with a New Year’s Eve Party, his bizarre attempt to paint a room, or his misadventures in a department store?

All classics, as is the Christmas episode.  Who could ever forget Mr. Bean using a Nativity as his own personal playset, or his attempts at caroling, or his chance to finally get it right with his girl by giving her the perfect gift…and who else but Mr. Bean could screw it up so royally?

Rowan Atkinson is one of modern comedy’s most prolific artists, but he may never again achieve the apex he reached with Mr. Bean.  Even his attempt to recreate the magic for a motion picture failed miserably.  There’s just something about the show that brought out the best in him.  As he himself puts it, everyone has one truly unique comical character in him.  And Mr. Bean was definitely his.

Video **

The episodes look pretty good, given their age and their mostly-video source material.  There is a bit of grain and aging effects noticeable here and there, and the colors aren’t quite as vivid as you’d see with a brand new show, but overall, nothing really to complain about.

Audio **

The stereo mixes are likewise perfectly adequate…there aren’t a lot of spoken words in the world of Bean, but the music and sound effects play nicely.  Dynamic range isn’t really present nor required for these shows.

Features **

A few of the extras from The Whole Bean set are included here, including the terrific documentary “The Story of Bean”, plus text biography and filmography for Rowan Atkinson.

Summary:

This is a concentrated dose of Mr. Bean, heavy on the laughs, light on the filling.  I personally couldn’t live without my Whole Bean collection, but now fans have an option:  for those who want to go a little lighter, or especially for those who are curious to discover the wacky, wonderful world of Bean, this single disc set is a laugh riot sure to be loved by all.