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MR. BEAN:  THE WHOLE BEAN

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Rowan Atkinson
Directors:  Various
Audio:  Dolby Digital Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1 (Movies 1.85:1)
Studio:  Shout! Factory
Features:  See Review
Length:  350 Minutes
Release Date:  March 24, 2015

“Ecce homo qui est faba!” (“Behold the man who is a bean!”)Mr. Bean theme song

Shows ***1/2

Rowan Atkinson is a comic genius, and Mr. Bean is his masterpiece.

After finding success on stage and television with shows like Not the Nine O’ Clock News and the legendary Black Adder, 1989 saw the completion of a character that had been emerging in his repertoire for some time now.  Bean was a specimen of pure physical comedy, of action and reaction, and a throwback to the great silent comedians.

He had the innocence of Chaplin, the problem-solving mentality of Buster Keaton, and the earnestness of Harold Lloyd.  Throw in a bit of the situational artistry of Jacques Tati, and you have almost a complete picture…you just have to throw in a generous helping of Atkinson’s own imagination and style.  Very little dialogue was required or used…in fact, I’d wager if you counted up all the spoken words in all of the Mr. Bean episodes combined, you wouldn’t have as many as in one typical modern half hour sitcom! 

Bean is a wonderful, indelible character in his own right…at once irascible and childlike, with a Machiavellian approach to life.  When Bean had a goal, he often took the most direct route to it, no matter how much more trouble it caused along the way!

Now, all of the misadventures of Mr. Bean have been compiled into one terrific FOUR disc collection from Shout Factory entitled Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean.  From 1989 to 1995, this set features all 14 made-for-TV episodes of Mr. Bean as they originally appeared on British television and later in America on HBO, where Atkinson and his alter ego added more enthusiasts to their fan base. 

The premier television episode featured three bits destined to become classics, starting with Mr. Bean’s troubles taking a college exam and continuing with a bit where he tries to change into swimming trunks WITHOUT removing his trousers!  It finishes with Mr. Bean in church, which is a guaranteed gut-buster.

To watch these episodes is to laugh hard and often.  Mr. Bean’s excursions result in one hilarious scenario after another.  Some of my personal favorites include Bean and his girlfriend at a horror movie (I haven’t laughed so hard in a LONG time!), his troubles at the dentist, when he gets mistaken for a barber, his difficulty in playing a round of miniature golf that leads him all over town, and his return to school, which leads to a hysterical incident in art class, a chemistry lab foul-up, and a tear-inducing scene where he has to try and retrieve his pants!

But that’s barely scratching the surface.  If you love those episodes, you’ll also love watching a naked Mr. Bean trying to get back into his hotel room after locking himself out, or his difficulties with a very small suitcase (GREAT payoff for that skit), his Christmas episode where a serene nativity scene becomes his plaything, or how he goes about painting his apartment…that one has to be seen to be believed!

Mr. Bean's run on television wasn't long enough, in my opinion, but with HBO giving us Yanks a chance to experience what Europe already knew, Rowan Atkinson's character was bound to become a classic.  He would spawn a couple of theatrical films and even an animated series.  But it's these classic gems that truly show him at his best.

Video ***

Considering the age of some of the shows and the videotape media, there’s not much to find fault with about the television series.  It looks about as good as can be expected, and merits no real complaints nor compliments…fans should be pleased enough. 

Audio **

Likewise with the stereo audio, the soundtrack is perfectly adequate.  Here’s normally where I mention the quality of the spoken words, but they come up only scarcely in Mr. Beanjust sit back and enjoy the music, sound effects, and Atkinson’s few swallowed words here and there.

Features ***1/2

The set contains several features, and they begin with “The Story of Mr. Bean”, a 40 minute documentary that traces both the rise of the character and the man who created him.  Rowan Atkinson is featured in several interview clips, as well those who have partnered with him in crime over the years…entertaining stuff!  There are also two bonus clips featuring Mr. Bean (the Bus Stop one is hysterical), two of which came from Comedy Relief UK.  There are four "missing scenes", a best bits compilation, and some promotional trailers.

Summary:

Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean is a gas…a good 6 hours of pure comic bliss, featuring Rowan Atkinson’s genius for physical comedy and his beloved-around-the-world character of Mr. Bean.  You've got more than enough laughter to get you through any bad day.  Or several!

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