Like Mr. Bean, Judge Franck Tabouring once tried to get dressed while driving. Unlike Mr. Bean, he failed.
Our reviews of Mr. Bean's Holiday (published December 7th, 2007), Mr. Bean's Holiday (HD DVD) (published December 13th, 2007), and Mr. Bean: The Animated Series (published November 4th, 2003) are also available.
Welcome to the strange world of Mr. Bean.
It's not hard to love Mr. Bean. Sure, he's a total weirdo who has no clue what's going on around him, but at the same time, he's also quite hilarious. Then again, maybe he's not that clueless after all. I mean, even though his methods are extremely unconventional and he clearly lives in his own world, he usually finds a solution for everything, right? Mr. Bean made me laugh a lot during my childhood. Even now, after revisiting his crazy adventures, I still consider him one of the oddest but funniest characters to have ever appeared on television.
Facts of the Case
Mr. Bean: The Ultimate Collection is called ultimate for a reason. This seven-disc set includes nearly everything the amusing Brit has ever done, from his glorious television series to his two so-so theatrical escapades, all the way to the goofy animated series.
To give you a better overview, here's what's spread across this big collection:
• Mr. Bean: The Series
Sit back and enjoy the delicious 14 episodes from the popular TV series, during which Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson, Johnny English) does anything from going to town to checking into a hotel, going back to school, getting a haircut, playing mini-golf, or going to the dentist.
• Bean: The Movie
In his first big-screen adventure, Bean is sent to Los Angeles to give a speech at the unveiling of the prestigious painting of "Whistler's Mother." Bean, however, is not really an art expert, and all he does during his stay in the United States is get into the worst trouble imaginable.
• Mr. Bean's Holiday
Mr. Bean is traveling again, and this time he's going straight to the Cannes Film Festival. After winning a video camera and a trip to the French Riviera, Bean quickly finds himself strolling across France, where he collides with a new culture, meets a charming French actress, and tries to help a boy get back to his father. Oh, and being Mr. Bean, he also ends up crashing a movie premiere at the world's most famous film fest.
• Mr. Bean: The Animated Series
This collection only includes volumes One and Two of the animated series, which launched in 2002. It follows Mr. Bean as he gets himself into more trouble.
Let's take a closer look at what this collection is all about:
• Mr. Bean: The Series
This, of course, is the best part of this set, because nothing Mr. Bean has ever appeared in is funnier than this original series from the early '90s. There are 14 episodes to enjoy here, and each 25-minute episode is divided into three or four smaller sketches. For those of you wondering, these are indeed the edited episodes, and it's unfortunate they didn't make the effort to include the uncut versions. Still, if you've never owned the TV series before and thought about adding it to your DVD collection, this little flaw shouldn't hold you back from investing into this seven-disc set.
The greatest thing about this timeless show is that it's funny and original enough to entertain adults and children alike. Atkinson's Bean is such a strange fellow that you just cannot help but giggle when you look at his seemingly innocent face. His extravagant posture, his arsenal of silly facial expressions, and his constant mumbling are just a few of the characteristics that make this Brit so enjoyable to observe as he engages in the strangest daily activities and faces a horde of often trivial but amusing obstacles. As confused as he looks, however, Bean never gives up and always finds a solution to a dilemma, even if it's the most unusual you can think of.
Although he may look like a very friendly guy, Mr. Bean is in fact quite mean, and he never shies away from deceiving those around him if it means he can walk away from a situation with some personal benefit. Whether it's finding a way to get to the front of a waiting line, cheating during an exam, or just stirring up trouble and blaming it all on others, Bean always finds a way to clean up his mess.
I'm sure most of you are already familiar with Mr. Bean and his adventures, so there's no need for me to further explain why I adore watching him so much. What I can do though is list some of my favorite sketches. One episode I particularly enjoy is "Do-It-Yourself Mr. Bean," which kicks off with Bean trying to host a New Year's Eve Party for two of his friends. For them, it's probably the lamest celebration ever, but for me as a viewer, watching Bean cutting up a branch of a tree and serve it as a snack still remains one of the most glorious moments of the entire season. Other classic moments I enjoy watching over and over again is Bean getting dressed on his way to the dentist, his hilarious attempt to set up his new TV, and his memorable visit to the ER.
• Bean: The Movie
As much as I tried to love Bean's first theatrical adventure (and its sequel, for that matter), I ended up being a little disappointed by what I saw. Making a movie that succeeds in capturing the greatness of a perfect TV series is a challenging task, and although the filmmakers of Bean certainly tried to show audiences the Mr. Bean they knew so well, they didn't quite manage to pull it off. The format of a feature-length film obviously differs greatly from that of a TV series featuring short sketches, and it's quite simply impossible to recreate the charm and particular humor of the show on the big screen.
One major problem I had with Bean was the filmmakers' idea to take some of the show's funniest moments and simply throw them into the movie without realizing that Bean fans were already familiar with them. One example is Bean trying to retrieve his watch from the inside of a stuffed turkey. Another scene that's pretty much identical to that in the series is his plane ride to Los Angeles. Duplicating content this way just doesn't do the trick.
With all that said, Bean is not a total disaster. The film is still mildly entertaining, and the nature of the wacky humor will especially please younger audiences. Atkinson still delivers the goods as the titular character, even though the script doesn't give him the opportunity to come across as hilarious as usual. Also turning in a solid performance is Peter MacNicol, who plays a representative from the museum who's ordered to take care of Bean and show him around. If you've never seen Bean's TV series before, you may actually end up enjoying this film a whole lot more than I did.
• Mr. Bean's Holiday
It took ten years for Bean to return to the big screen. While Mr. Bean's Holiday is not a bad film, it's not a memorable ride either. The filmmakers didn't shy away from taking scenes from the original series and recreating them on the big screen. Okay, I know it may not a big deal, but Mr. Bean is clearly someone you want to have fun with, and if the quality of the humor is diminished by a lack of innovation, having fun is not as easy as it seems.
As for the main story line of the film, I actually liked it a little better than that of the predecessor. Watching Bean look for a way to get to the French Riviera is definitely more engaging than watching him cause mayhem in an art museum. The frequent change of locations provides the plot with more variety, which also allows the character to run into more unfamiliar situations than usual. Additionally, the beauty of the French countryside and the accompanying elegant score earns the film a few extra points.
While the humor is not as delicious as in the TV series, Mr. Bean's Holiday is nonetheless a harmless and entertaining comedy that I found to be more refreshing than the first film. The humor may be monotonous at this point, but you simply can't go that wrong with Bean crashing a movie premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. Supporting Bean this time around is charming French actress Emma de Caunes, who actually plays an amateur actress looking for a career boost. Also starring is the hilarious Willem Dafoe, who appears as a narcissistic film director who's constantly struggling with Bean's clumsiness.
• Mr. Bean: The Animated Series
Young audiences may enjoy this animated Bean series, but I had my troubles watching it. As a matter of fact, I didn't even make it through all the episodes. Clearly designed for kids, this series tries to mirror Bean's original live-action series by following a similar format: each episode lasts for about 20 minutes and features two 10-minute sketches. While the animated Bean definitely looks like the real Rowan Atkinson, he's obviously not as funny and charming. That said, if you have children running around the house, this addition to the collection will certainly come in handy. On the other hand, this set only includes the first two volumes out of six in total. Don't ask me why they didn't include all of them.
As far as technical aspects are concerned, this collection performs pretty well. The full-frame presentation of the original TV series obviously doesn't look as sharp as the movies or the animated series, but considering the time it was originally released, the quality of the image and sound (Dolby Digital Stereo) are certainly passable. The Bean disc offers the film in both full frame and the 1.85:1 widescreen ratio. The latter looks just fine, with both image and sound fulfilling their respective purpose. Mr. Bean's Holiday boasts its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and its picture quality is undoubtedly the best. Both feature films come with a Dolby Digital 5.1 transfer. As for the animated series, it is presented in full frame with strong colors and a decent 2.0 stereo audio transfer.
• The Special Features
Considering this is an ultimate collection, I was expecting plenty of great special features. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Although I found a couple of interesting featurettes I seriously enjoyed, some of the extras you'll find on these discs seem a little repetitive.
"The Story of Bean" is an excellent 40-minute documentary about the creation of Mr. Bean, but also about Rowan Atkinson as a comedic talent and how he slowly rose to fame. It's a particularly informative and personal piece because it features lots of interviews by people who used to be somehow involved in the series or the two theatrical productions. To me personally, this is undoubtedly the best featurette of the entire collection, and I highly recommend it to everyone who's always wanted to know where the charm and hilarity of Atkinson and his Mr. Bean originally came from. Also included on this disc are two never-before-seen-on-TV sketches, as well as two appearances by Mr. Bean for Britain's Comic Relief charity. Besides a trailer for the animated series, there's also a quick Rowan Atkinson biography and filmography, an extra that you'll also find on several other discs in this collection. Don't ask me why they decided to include it more than once though.
Accompanying Bean: The Movie are OMC's music video "I Love L.A.," three trailers, and a couple of cast and filmmakers biographies. Sadly enough, that's it already for the bonus material on this disc. Moving on to Mr. Bean's Holiday, the quality and quantity of the special features increase. The bonus material kicks off with 17 deleted scenes, some of which are funny, while others are not. "French Beans" is an 11-minute behind-the-scenes look exploring why the filmmakers picked France as the film's main setting. In what is an overall enjoyable featurette, cast and crew members discuss the different film locations as well as the numerous challenges of shooting visual comedy. In "Beans in Cannes," the focus lies on the challenge of shooting a movie during the Cannes Film Festival without interfering too much with the official festivities. Believe it or not, they did a great job keeping it a secret; I was in attendance at Cannes that same year and didn't notice anything even though I strolled around the main auditorium practically everyday. So much for my little anecdote; let's move straight on to "The Human Bean," the disc's third and last behind-the-scenes piece, during which cast and crew talk about what it's like to work with Mr. Bean himself, the great Rowan Atkinson.
The specials coming with the animated series are not that intriguing. Besides a photo gallery and a couple of trailers, the bonus material only includes a 20-minute behind-the-scenes look, which includes footage from creative meetings and Atkinson's voiceover sessions. If you're a fan of the animated Bean you may find it useful, but I personally couldn't warm up to it too much. Some of these extras are informative and useful, while others pretty much stink. While I would have loved to see more, I admit the bonus material covering the original TV series and the second feature film helped me get passed the lack of decent extra stuff on the rest of the discs.
If you like Mr. Bean and don't yet own the TV series or the two feature films, I would definitely recommend investing into this collection. If you own some Mr. Bean DVDs already, don't expect anything new from this set.
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What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice, Mr. Bean: The Series
Perp Profile, Mr. Bean: The Series
Distinguishing Marks, Mr. Bean: The Series
• The Story of Bean
Scales of Justice, Bean: The Movie
Perp Profile, Bean: The Movie
Distinguishing Marks, Bean: The Movie
• Music Video
Scales of Justice, Mr. Bean: The Animated Series
Perp Profile, Mr. Bean: The Animated Series
Distinguishing Marks, Mr. Bean: The Animated Series
Scales of Justice, Mr. Bean's Holiday
Perp Profile, Mr. Bean's Holiday
Distinguishing Marks, Mr. Bean's Holiday
• Deleted Scenes
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