It was inevitable that British TV's famed idiot-savant manchild Mr. Bean should grace the big screen; his self-titled film debut, already an international blockbuster, has finally made its way to the U.S., where his following is smaller and cultish. Although Rowan Atkinson's creation is reminiscent of film clowns like Jacques Tati's Monsieur Hulot and Harry Langdon, Mr. Bean is more at home on television; the character's talent for triggering catastrophe through his bizarre, self-absorbed eccentricities is best displayed in brief sketches. Bean isn't even all that likable and has a distinct taste for malice, but his illogical yet often effective problem-solving tactics can be hilarious. When Atkinson tries to stretch familiar Beanisms into 80 minutes, the results are mostly unsatisfying. In an underwritten premise, Atkinson is an employee of London's National Gallery assigned to escort to America Whistler's famous portrait of his mother, which has been newly purchased by a Los Angeles museum. Mistaken for an art expert by museum officials, Bean wreaks havoc at the home of a curator (Peter MacNicol) and jeopardizes the sale. Several old TV routines are rehashed, with only a few amusing segments of new material; the supporting characters, for whom we're supposed to feel sympathy, are bland and unappealing. Most disappointing is the shortage of glimpses of Atkinson's excellent timing and considerable slapstick gifts; he's mostly shot in close-up, which seems to lessen Bean's physical presence. For all its highly touted success, Bean will please only the most hardcore fans, and probably do little to win new converts.

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