Credit where credit is due here. That brilliant headline comes from Susan King at the Los Angeles Times. With Rowan Atkinson’s new film, Johnny English Reborn set to open in U.S. theaters nationwide today, the British comedian has found, historically, that the American market is, indeed, a tough ‘bean’ to crack when it comes to big screen popularity.
While Atkinson’s Mr. Bean character and, to some extent, the original Johnny English film have achieved global greatness, neither has experienced an equal fan base in America. The Mr. Bean television series has been and continues to be a big success on American public television stations, but the feature films of Bean and Mr. Bean’s Holiday were less than blockbuster status when compared to global box-office receipts.
Atkinson recently shared his thoughts as to why America might be behind the rest of the world in Bean popularity saying: “Here you have a very particular and sort of unique television market. Unless you have volume of production, it’s very difficult to establish a character or reputation. … ‘Mr. Bean’ has always been a bit of a fringe or minority thing. Whereas in Spain or the U.K., where they don’t have the frantic and crowded market with all the pilots, the ratings and the commercial necessities, it is much easier to establish a TV show with very few episodes.”
Offering a different perspective, producer Tim Bevan of Working Title, which has made all of Atkinson’s films, believes that perhaps something is being lost in translation. “I think comedy is always quite a difficult thing,” Bevan said. “American comedy coming this way and British comedy going that way, it’s not as easy a passage as you think, given our sharing of a common language.”
You be the judge. Check out Johnny English Reborn, opening in theaters today. FYI, Mr. Bean returns to a number of public television stations nationwide beginning in November.