Bean on the big screen is only an enticing prospect if you like your humour twitty rather than witty. A catalogue of allegedly comic catastrophes - just like the TV programme, but three times as long - it's utterly intolerable for those who find Atkinson's rubber-faced halfwit as funny as a rectal examination by a bloke with very large hands. But even those of you who do get off on Bean's pantomime antics are likely to feel that this full-length misadventure stretches pretty one-note material well past its natural breaking point. Depressingly, it'll probably go down a storm in those areas where Atkinson is actually one of Britain's most successful comedy exports.
As you might have guessed, I didn't like this film at all. The problem is that even rabid, lobotomised Bean fans have a right to expect more for their cash than this feeble attempt to spin out one joke (the guy's an utter idiot) for a whopping 97 minutes - especially when it insists on shamelessly rehashing gags from the TV series. Admittedly, the one involving an aeroplane, a small child and a sick bag is quite funny, but the opportunity to make the flying vom more graphic - ie, filming it arc through the cabin in Technicolor slo-mo - provides scant justification for its big-screen reprise.
The plot? Because of some incredibly unbelievable storyline contrivance, Mr Bean finds himself on a plane bound for LA. The National Gallery, London, where he works as a porter, wants to get shot of him, while the Grierson Gallery in the US is after a respected art scholar to preside at a gala unveiling. So instead of a quiet, dignified ceremony, the Yanks get a series of disasters: left alone in a pristine gallery, Bean makes a merry mess of it all, before going on to ruin the home and marriage of his host too. It's all very funny. Or not.
Don't get me wrong. Rowan Atkinson is a frequently brilliant comedian (stand up, Blackadder), has a peerless way with words (as in the intelligent Four Weddings novice clergyman speech) and his range of facial contortions makes Jim Carrey look like Roger Moore. But you can't help feeling that Bean - indeed, the character itself - is beneath him. The young and lowland Europeans have been known to fall off the sofa in fits of laughter when he's on the telly, but I'll bet even they will find this extended big-screen stupidity wearing. Bean is just too long to sustain the riotous slapstick, especially when the story (partly the work of Four Weddings/ Blackadder scribe Richard Curtis) smacks more of desperation than inspiration.
True, there are some funny moments. Most notable is Atkinson's speech about Whistler's mum (he calls her a "mad old cow"), which convinces the American art media that he's some Forrest Gump-style genius. However, for every truly hilarious bit there are 10 minutes of blundering, laugh-free shite. The Whistler speech is Bean's only attempt at taking the piss out of the US - surely a missed opportunity. Both countries would have enjoyed a madcap romp through tourist-familiar Americana, a British version of National Lampoon's European Vacation.
What makes this whole Bean fiasco particularly annoying is the fact that it would appear to have taken most of British TV's comic talents to come up with it: as well as Atkinson and Curtis there's director Mel Smith, whose Jeff Goldblum/Emma Thompson starrer The Tall Guy remains a minor classic. Perhaps it's down to the limitations of the character - or, more worryingly, to a lack of money or imagination - but Atkinson's English eccentric never really lets rip as much as he should on America. He could have brought LA to its knees, but his feature never makes good on its promise to be the "ultimate disaster movie". Instead, it's a half-baked Bean that'll merely give you wind.