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A&E Home Video presents
Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean (1989-1997)

Review By: Dan Lopez  
Published: April 28, 2003

Stars: Rowan Atkinson
Other Stars: Angus Deayton, Robin Driscoll, Matilda Zeigler
Director: John Birkin, other various personnel

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild suggestive humor)
Run Time: 08h:30m:00s
Release Date: April 29, 2003
UPC: 733961708301
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-B+B B

DVD Review

Anyone who's seen any episode of Rowan Atkinson's now-classic television performances, Mr. Bean, likely remembers the first time they set eyes on the show and how it effected them, for better or worse. While many already enjoyed Atkinson from his days on the excellent British comedy Black Adder, Bean provided a very different comedic outlet, and one that highlights his solo ability at physical and conceptual humor. In what is almost a homage to the classic "one-man" comedy of classic silent starts like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin (not to mention more contemporary work like, say, Red Skeleton), Mr. Bean highlights episodes in the life of a very strange, very inept, but very clever little man, a nervous ball of confused energy whom Rowan Atkinson plays with exacting detail and perfected choreography. Whether his Mr. Bean is sitting in a library, or waiting for a dentist appointment, or just walking around doing his shopping, the possibilities for funny disasters are plentiful and exploited. With virtually no dialogue, one might even go so far as to call it silent humor, and it is certainly a format that one would be amazed to see work so well in the early 1990s.

This DVD collection contains all fourteen of the Mr. Bean television episodes, which may not sound like much, but it's easy to see why in just these fourteen, the character and the comedy became so widely known and successful. In fact, Mr. Bean is quite the phenomena when it comes to the world, which is unquestionably thanks to the lack of a language barrier in the humor. While I personally have always felt the massive Bean-mania that has overtaken certain fans (certainly during the release of the feature film) has been a bit overkill, I still must admit that not only is the show very clever and funny, but Atkinson himself proves to be an amazingly skilled comedian going far beyond the usual quips and jokes while requiring himself to become a physical master of his craft. Whether it be pratfalls or slamming into objects or performing a bizarre task such as getting out of a Mini Cooper without opening the doors, Atkinson must twist and bend his way through a variety of situations with super-precise effort if the end result is to be at all funny.

Another impressive aspect of Mr. Bean is that it's very clean humor. Yes, there's the occasional suggestive stuff, but nothing really crude, which obviously is a positive aspect. In fact, I used to watch Bean with my relatively conservative mother, who loved the show, and it occurred to me that, to an extent, this is perfect family material as well. While perhaps not for small children, there's certainly a broad humor here good enough for virtually anyone to enjoy. Where Mr. Bean comes from and where he's going is a complete mystery and, indeed, there is no 'plot' to the show, but there doesn't need to be. It is for this reason I personally didn't like the Mr. Bean feature film, simply because I felt a movie-length story (not to mention the endless recycling of gags from the TV show) really wasn't suited to Atkinson's method, though he did do an admirable job of putting together the project. Instead, I recommend these original episodes with their quaint and simple manner of delivering utterly silly and reckless humor in an oddly dignified way.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The episodes look clean and crisp thanks to healthy transfers that, while effected by extremely minor glitches in the original video prints, are mastered at high bit-rates and don't seem to have any artificial image enhancement or sharpening. There's nothing to complain about or point to here, and the work is very pleasing and impressive.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: There's not a lot to say about the audio as the episodes are typically devoid of any substantial dialogue, and often just use ambient sound and direct effects. That said, though, there are no issues with the audio and the silent parts are indeed silent with no distracting hiss or other mechanical noise coming off the track. Stereo effects are rare, but most often occur with the occasional musical score.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 60 cues
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Mr. Bean: The Animated Series
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
3 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
  2. Additional sketches
Extras Review: The central extras are a 40-minute documentary called The Story of Bean, two never-before broadcast segments, and the inclusion of some Mr. Bean sketches performed as part of a Comic Relief festival, including the infamous (and rather funny) "Dating Game" skit in which Bean is a contestant. The documentary, apparently produced for British television, offers an interesting, though light look at Rowan Atkinson's development as a comedy writer through the years, his evolution to Oxford theater, the television show Not the 9 O'clock News, Black Adder, and of course Mr. Bean. It's a good program that also has interviews with many of the co-writers and colleagues of Atkinson from his school days.
The additional sketches are enjoyable and, to a certain extent, a much-needed addition to the set to understand the broader draw of Mr. Bean, at least in terms of the character appearing on Comic Relief. (And it should be noted that the British Comic Relief is vastly different from the American one. It usually brings in all sorts of stage performances from many aspects of British entertainment, and live versions of popular television shows are quite common.)
There's a Rowan Atkinson biography, still photo gallery, and a trailer for the new Mr. Bean animated cartoon now getting rave reviews on British television. The presentation is much like most of A&E's box collection work, with similarly-themed box, disc, and case art. It's a satisfying package with efficient menu design and no glitches of any real issue. The only small problem is a misprint on the second disc, which states that the first episode is The Trouble with Mr. Bean when it is, in fact, Mr. Bean Rides Again (in other words, don't worry, the episode isn't duplicated).

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

You cannot go wrong with this boxed set; a virtual treasure trove of excellent physical and intellectual comedy from one of the great masters of the "one-man" show, even though lots of people help with the humor and style. Rowan Atkinson is definitely a comic genius, but in a weird sort of way that, I for one, never would have suspected, having been a huge fan of his earlier work. A&E can put a new feather in their cap for bringing out another solid North American release of classic British comedy.


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