While physical comedy is an acquired taste and not enjoyable for everyone, Rowan Atkinson’s iconic performance as the adorable buffoon Mr Bean has always been a personal favourite. That Mr Bean aired every weekend on Indian kids’ channels was a cherry on top of my growing admiration for the popular, directionless character who drove a classic Mini, spent time with his teddy bear and induced laughter among one and all with his hilarious antics. When Atkinson announced a comedic comeback on Netflix with Man vs Bee, I expected a nostalgic delight.
In the nine-episode series with a short runtime, Atkinson stars in the lead as the goofy and slow but good-natured dunderhead, Trevor Bingley who is nothing like Mr Bean or his other iconic character and a parody of James Bond, Johnny English. Bingley is clumsy, incompetent and a bit idiotic who, despite his well-meaning nature, ends up losing several jobs before bagging a housesitting job for an elite plutocratic couple.
Desperate to save money for a camping trip with his daughter, this doting father agrees to look after a massive hi-tech home furnished with money, opulence and grandeur. Laced with expensive art, insane technological features and a never-ending fleet of classic cars, including a first-edition Jaguar-E, the house reeks of affluence. While the couple embarks on an exotic holiday, they put Trevor in charge of the house and their precious, dim-witted dog, who is temperamental and has a severe allergy to nuts.
While Trevor is left with a rather large and complex manual to train himself around the bourgeois equipment, he encounters a rather unexpected enemy- a bee.
Netflix’s penchant for insect-driven titles is showing. From the terrifying French horror thriller The Swarm, last year, which focused on a woman’s unhealthy connection with locusts, to creating a show with a literal bee as an antagonist, the streamer’s tryst with comedy is getting more experimental and bizarre by the day. Add to that Rowan Atkinson at his finest, still undeterred in his underpants as he engages in insane activities, Man vs Bee is an absolute delight.
From destroying the paintings to damaging the cars and nearly killing the dog, Trevor struggles to hold himself together. Atkinson delivers a severely deranged and unhinged performance as a man who is fixated on defeating his one true enemy- the bee who simply buzzes near his ear. However, the series soon gets a somewhat moral undertone when Trevor begins to contemplate his life and what seems most important while battling the bee. Additionally, he faces a group of burglars. Plot twist, the burglars are employed by the owner of the house in a carefully curated insurance fraud.
Although Trevor is initially imprisoned, the plot twist towards the end brings poetic justice. It is extremely gratifying to watch Trevor reunite with his family. He seems to have made peace with the bee when he offers a peanut butter sandwich towards the end. The bee survives, hinting at a potential second season, more chaos and more of Atkinson’s unbridled madness.
Directed by David Kerr, the show stars Claudie Blakley, India Fowler, Jing Lusi, Julian Rhind-Tutt and others, alongside Atkinson. And the series further proves, Atkinson is still the undisputed king of physical comedy.
Watch Man vs. Bee on Netflix now.