It’s a cliché of sitcoms on the big screen that the the characters go abroad, and in the case of Mr Bean this trope is used in both films. In this, his first, Bean is sent to America to represent the art gallery he works for during the unveiling of Whistler’s Mother. He stays with art enthusiast David Langley (Peter MacNicol) who has for some reason formed the notion that Bean is a great art scholar who looks like Brad Pitt.
In a criticism almost as inevitable as Atkinson’s world-famous gurning, Bean struggles to adapt the near mute character to a longer adventure. It might have worked in the style of a Keaton or Chaplin film, where Bean is asked to do a job which he then gets spectacularly wrong – possibly doing a couple back-to-back with a common foil. I think this could have worked, since the plot doesn’t really add anything anyway.
Instead the surprisingly elaborate plot centres on Bean’s destruction of both Whistler’s Mother and David’s marriage, as his wife and kids move out within about six hours of Bean moving in. The problem is the two elements of the film aren’t connected. The funnier Whistler’s Mother plot feels like the more important of the two, but is resolved half an hour before the end of the film. This leaves Bean to prat about with the weird, awkwardly acted and un-lovable family until the end.
There are a number of solidly entertaining scenes, in particular those involving Bean and the painting. Atkinson is always enjoyable to watch as the character, even if you can’t help but feel sorry for how much he looks like Mr Bean. Other aspects of the content feel misjudged for a family film, like when Bean appears to be having sex with a hand dryer and an excruciating scene in an operating theatre, which pushes the limits of believability even for a Mr Bean adventure, and pushes the limits of good taste even further.
In spite of entertaining moments there’s an inescapable sense that the cinema isn’t the best place for Bean. But Rowan Atkinson needed a new Lambourghini, so what you gonna do? It’s probably more solid, though, than 2007’s Mr Bean’s Holiday, which they should have called Bean There, Done That. Why didn’t they ask me?