The king’s return
You clicked on this review on a rush of adrenaline. Is this the Rowan Atkinson of Mr. Bean ? The one you watched while smiling blissfully on the sofa in a small apartment with your parents? Is he back for more candid posturing and sly looks? Yes, he still has that comedic gift that he showcases in Alone with the bee without reaching overflow, satiety or boredom.
The scenario of this short series (nine episodes with a total duration of less than two hours) is also reduced to its bare minimum in order to leave him as much time and space as possible to unpack his arsenal of gags. Rowan Atkinson thus interprets Trevor, a divorced, unemployed and rather pathetic father, who, in order to offer his daughter a dream weekend, decides to officiate as a house sitter. (house keeper in French). The 50-year-old, not very smart, finds himself watching over a modern and bourgeois house, stuffed with overpriced contemporary art, and in which a bee is going to give him a hard time.
If the goofy premise of a CGI bee (which incidentally turns out to be a bumblebee) as an antagonist to a clumsy, grimacing simpleton might sound hilarious, well, it is. And it is very difficult to escape the series without having at least blown your nose.
Between the dog and its allergy (which acts as a laxative), the fragility of a century-old manuscript exhibited in a library closed by voice command (whose code is the date of an unpronounceable Scandinavian battle), or the multitude of works priceless art present in the house, Alone with the bee fully succeeds in realizing its ambition to be a Final destination joke and destruction of furniture.
This immense playground, the corners of which have only been touched upon, allows the staging to have fun with its protagonist, by manipulating him in various situations and settings, from the bathroom to the garden via the garage, from low angle when he sings in the shower or in wide and static shots to see him spinning around beautifully. Fortunately, this technological brothel avoids the pitfall of being nothing more than a schoolboy comedy, and thus saves any consideration on the entry of electronics into our homes.
The format of the series, strange at first glance, is one of its greatest strengths. Alone with the bee appears to have been a movie at some point in its development, lasting less than two hours. Finally, this hypothetical film would have been cut into nine episodes, the duration of which varies from ten minutes to nearly eighteen minutes (each being centered on a room or a particular conflict situation between Trevor and the bee).
This cutting allows the series to never see its rhythm slow down, and to be an energetic cartoon and a real candy to binge-watcher., the episodes following one another at breakneck speed. It would have been difficult to absorb a nearly two-hour movie (which would be redundant at times due to the similar nature of the comedic situations), and this format makes the content much more digestible.
We’ve bean there before
It’s hard not to approach the series with a hint of wariness, however. The Netflix platform, as it had done with The Pentaverate of Mike Myersisn’t she trying to strike a chord with nostalgia by starring Rowan Atkinson in a story that you’d swear, squinting, was a new episode of Mr. Bean ? The answer is, obviously yes. And de facto, Alone with the bee seems an imitation, not to say a counterfeit.
A counterfeit of excellent craftsmanship, certainly, which manages to recycle the duo formed by the director and the screenwriter of Johnny Englishand which gives pride of place to the comedy of Rowan Atkinson, but a counterfeit which will have nothing memorable in comparison with Mr. Bean.
Go to coal, literally
This desire to be an almost direct sequel to the unanimously beloved character of Mr. Bean moreover pushes the series to be a one-man-show. Rowan Atkinson is the only lever of humor, with the exception of Cupcake, the friendly doggie, or the diabolical bumblebee in CGI. We can thus regret too little use of the doubtful policeman character of Tom Basdenor the neurotic bourgeois couple formed by Jing Lusi and Julian Rhind-Tutt, who only appear during the introduction, the conclusion, and on occasion of rare phone calls.
Something to ask: why does the story want to involve so many characters (given its short length) so as not to summon them later? Trevor’s family only serves to immediately emphasize that he is a good soul, despite his awkwardness, in the same way that the owner couple only serves to highlight his boorish ways, and to relativize the damage it will cause (are they really within a masterpiece?).
Tom Basden, a comic presence unfortunately not used
Focusing solely on Trevor’s character and Rowan Atkinson’s facial expressions, the series deprives itself of a comedy of situation which could have raised the stakes within all the more wacky adventures. A surprise visit from Trevor’s ex-wife or suspicious owners returning unexpectedly are all ideas that could have enriched the narrative, but also the gags.
It is unfortunate, all the more so, insofar as Alone with the bee launches into an attempt of the kind, in the middle of her season, which she immediately defuses, thus depriving us of a sequence of home invasion which however promised to be incredible, disturbing for our greatest pleasure the postulate of this fierce duel between a bee and an actor who will never give us the bumblebee.
Alone with the Bee is available in full since June 24, 2022 on Netflix