As the woeful "Mr. Bean's Holiday" is on the verge of an American release, A&E has magically decided to release a 15 year old comedy special with Rowan Atkinson. For those not wanting to sit through another stomach churning film in which Atkinson's talents go to waste (Cough SCOOBY-DOO Cough), you'll be glad to know this riotous special proudly displays Atkinson's comedic brilliance.
As I watched "Rowan Atkinson Live!," I began to ponder why Atkinson rarely does stage shows. I realize he's "gotta eat" by starring in disposable Hollywood vehicles, but one would think he would enjoy letting loose by doing what he loves to do in front of a crowd. I for one would gladly plunk down cash to see Atkinson as he is a great multi-talented comedian. To give you an idea of his talent, Atkinson opens the special by acting out the mostly wordless physical character Mr. Bean as he fights off the urge to sleep at church. In other sketches, he shows his range as he comes on stage as a talky devil, a priest, and even a victim of the Invisible Man's pranks.
Aside from physical prowess and comedic timing, I am marveled by Atkinson's ability to react to nothing. Even as he plays an imaginary drum set, he makes you believe he's really playing it. I have to laugh when actors and actresses complain about working with blue screen because Atkinson makes it seem so easy. Maybe these whiny actors should watch Rowan and learn from him.
The entire live special had me laughing from start to finish, but some pieces stuck out more than others. Raunchy and juvenile as it may be, I was cracking up at Atkinson's sketch in which he plays a teacher taking roll of students with suggestive last names like NiceAndQuick, Enema, and others I shouldn't mention to prevent spoiling the fun (or grossing you out). The acting school bit also proved to be a blast as Atkinson demonstrated various character types (an evil king, a hero, a messenger, to name a few).
As I saw this special on VHS years ago, I can honestly say "Rowan Atkinson Live!" has never looked better. The fullscreen looks fully restored. There's rarely a smidgen of grain to be found.
The Dolby Digital Stereo was fantastic. The dialogue by Atkinson is never hard to hear and isn't hampered by the auditorium's echoes like in a few stage performances I have seen.
Just as I was lamenting over the 55 minute run time, I discovered three extra routines on the extra features. The three deleted scenes are titled "Elementary Dating," "Guys After The Game," and "Tom, Dick, and Harry." Dating was a hilarious what to do/what not to do sketch with a wordless Rowan acts out scenes while a man narrates. I wish this was put back into the special as it was as funny as any other sketch. The "Guys After The Game" scene followed Rowan as a waiter who serves drunken idiots. Since there were no actors on stage with Rowan, he does the act solo by reacting to imaginary people. The last deleted scene ("Tom, Dick, and Harry") was the only flat bit on the entire disk. I can see why it was cut as the whole blind, deaf, mute story felt like rough material he was trying out on the crowd. The two other extras on the disk are a text biography and filmography of Rowan Atkinson.
Rowan Atkinson is hands down one of the funniest British comedians. Instead of watching one of Rowan's embarrassingly empty Hollywood films, see him in top form as he brings down the house on stage. If you enjoyed this live special, I'd advise giving his two award-winning shows ("Mr. Bean" and "Blackadder") a chance.
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.