It Should Have Been… SHIT
July 5, 2007
BEAN: THE ULTIMATE DISASTER MOVIE
The history of film is truly a Pandora’s Box, full of more surprises than the New Year’s honours list. Often a project destined for greatness will be a crushing dissapointment, but it’s nice when the reverse happens. Ahead of the release of the long-awaited Simpsons movie, we examine a similar historic example and evaluate the situation for the world’s favourite jaundice-stricken family.
Here we have a formula that has proven time and time again to fail spectacularly, end careers and turn fans sour: The TV to big-screen transfer. The X-Files Movie didn’t live up to the series, Scooby Doo was an elementary mistake made TWICE, and the recent film transfer was the only bad egg in the rich basket of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy adaptations. So why do it? They may be guaranteed cash cows, but compromising the integrity of a previously great series blemishes its pretty face forever.
All the odds were stacked against this one. No one who has ever watched Mr Bean could imagine or advise a 90 minute instalment in a big cinema. It was gentle tea-time slapstick, and though its audience was wide and adoring it remained a light piece of British blunder. Like Hugh Grant. Whichever BBC executive dared suggest that sending Bean to terrorise America and the world of fine art would be a shrewd move certainly had guts. And the title? Could you put a juicier opportunity on a bigger plate for the cynical reviewer?
It’s probably this kind of cheek that made Bean what it was. It’d be like pouring millions of pounds into a worldwide action epic version of Balamory and calling it “THE BEST IDEA ANYONE’S EVER HAD”. However you look at it Bean was doomed before it even began, so why should it take itself at all seriously or play safe? The risk was in the greenlighting- the production ought to be a boundary-free blast.
And so it was. Though moving British heroes to America is not usually advisable as far as TV and movie history is concerned (see Alfie, The Office, errr… The Weakest Link?), Bean ushered in an era that continues to evolve with the likes of Borat. Even before the US was the Roman Empire we rebel against today, Bean craftily hit a topical nerve without even a hint of a social message. Forget sugaring the pill, Bean put the pill up our arses and ate a fat lump of sugar.
Blessed with a smart supporting cast (featuring Dot off EastEnders!) and more gags per minute than the original series ever acheived, the only element that could possibly have let the film down was the story. The bare bones. What will Mr Bean actually do? Why? And will we care? It’s a no-brainer when you think about it- where do you unleash a human time-bomb for it to have the greatest effect? THE ARTS WORLD! We all hate artsy fartsy stereotypes, so why not let the illiterate minefield knock them down a peg or two?
It’s easy to bypass the note-perfect performance from Rowan Atkinson amidst the high-jinx, but every noise uttered, every face pulled is a masterstroke of comedy acting. It takes balls to steer an apprehensive audience through slapstick set pieces as ridiculous as the 3D simulator ride sequence, or the timeless ‘wet pants in imporant meeting’ scenario. It’s not even predictable. It FEELS predictable because in theory its all been done before, but never with such zeal and downright bare-faced cheek.
But underneath the inspired comic set-ups is a warm-hearted family yarn, fresh yet classically simple. If we consider that most films are based on the structure equilibrium-disruption-solution-equilibrium (meaning a situation is disturbed by conflict and eventually resolved), the Bean equilibrium is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it affair and the disruptions are more disruptive than a coked-up rugby referee. And so, the resolutions- however temporary they may be- are all the more satisfying. All it takes is a little bit of thinking outside the safe plastic box, staying faithful to a universally-appealing character and some fast-acting laxatives and you’ve got a pleasantly surprising hit comedy on your hands.
It’s about taking the small-screen principles and multiplying them- keeping the truth of the character but giving them a bigger stage. If Bob The Builder was ever immortalised by the film industry, we’d be asking if he can fix the Leaning Tower of Pisa or similar. And if the Simpsons trailers are anything to go by, it looks like Matt Groening & co have nailed the risk factor for the greatly anticipated ‘season finale’….