Table of Contents
Photo: ‘Man Vs. Bee’
From Bean to Bee
Rowan Atkinson is someone who needs no introduction. From gaining mainstream attention in classic British television comedies like ‘Blackadder’ and ‘Mr. Bean’ to starring in films like ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Johnny English’, he’s made quite a name for himself in the world of entertainment. And for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, Rowan Atkinson returns with ‘Man Vs. Bee’, a series he and ‘Johnny English’ writer William Davies created for Netflix. Going into this show, I remained cautiously optimistic. The logline didn’t exactly win me over, and the idea of it being a series rather than a movie came across as questionable, but Atkinson’s presence as star and co-creator did pique my interest. While I can admittedly be picky about comedy now and again, I do enjoy some well-timed slapstick, and out of anyone to go head to head with a bee, the comedian best known for his character-based entirely around physical humor sounded like the perfect choice.
‘Man Vs. Bee’ centers around Trevor (Atkinson), who’s taken up a job housesitting a rich couple’s large, luxurious mansion in order to afford a nice holiday trip with his wife and daughter. However, a lone bee sneaks its way into the mansion, and it’s determined to stay there. It doesn’t take too long for all hell to break loose as Trevor struggles to balance dealing with the pesky insect, working out the mansion’s advanced security system, and making sure the couple’s dog stays out of trouble…all while trying his best to keep property damage to a minimum.
So, how was ‘Man Vs. Bee?’
Now having just seen ‘Man Vs. Bee’, I, unfortunately, have to say that I found it rather disappointing. The series has a setup somewhat reminiscent of the ‘90s Dreamworks film ‘Mousehunt’, with a human lead trying in vain to deal with a small creature that outsmarts him at every turn. However, part of the reason this formula worked so well in ‘Mousehunt’ was its over-the-top nature. That movie featured quite a lot of satisfying slapstick violence that gave it a good sense of dark comedic edge. The physical comedy in ‘Man Vs. Bee’ in comparison feels very tame, with much of the humor itself more so stemming from Trevor’s growing sense of frustration with the bee’s refusal to back down, rather than the injuries he suffers while trying to combat it. There’s not a whole lot of variation or surprises in this regard, and as a result, a lot of these gags wind up feeling tedious, as it becomes clear that Trevor isn’t going to rid himself of this bee anytime soon.
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The mild concern I had about ‘Man Vs. Bee’ being a television series turned out to be a false alarm, as most of the show’s episodes are only a quarter of an hour in length to ensure that it doesn’t overstay its welcome. However, the show still does suffer from a fair amount of repetition in its story structure. Trevor dealing with phone calls and doorbell rings at inconvenient times wears thin pretty quickly, as do the various moments where he thinks he’s won, only for the bee to rear its head once more. A lot of the show’s comedic setups are also very obvious. For example, the very moment Trevor sets the manual on how to work the mansion’s automotive features down on the stove, there’s no guess as to what’s going to happen to it by the end of the episode. The series is never obnoxiously unfunny, but it is more often than not rather flat, which is a shame considering the talent involved.
But What About the Good?
Despite some of my issues with ‘Man Vs. Bee’, I hesitate to straight-up call it a bad series, as there are some things I did appreciate about it. Some of the story beats hit the mark pretty well, and while it may be odd to say this about a wacky comedy like this, the relationship that Trevor has with his daughter and divorced wife was actually the strongest aspect. We get a good feel for how uncomfortable of a position Trevor is in as he tries to get on his ex-wife’s good side. An early scene has him reluctantly admitting that they can’t go on holiday until next week, meaning his ex-wife will have to do some difficult rearranging of her schedule. It’s a fairly grounded moment that got me to sympathize with both of them pretty well.
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Aside from this family dynamic, the way the show ultimately concluded was satisfying as well. Without giving away anything that happens, there were some plot twists I honestly didn’t see coming. And as far as humor goes, there was one moment that I actually did find pretty funny. When Trevor takes a shower after becoming increasingly dirty, the smart device connected to the shower plays “Just an Illusion” by Imagination, which he begins dancing and lip-synching along to, complete with using the shower head as a mock-microphone. The editing in combination with Rowan Atkinson’s acting allowed for this scene to hit just right.
Speaking of which…
How’s the Acting?
As expected, Rowan Atkinson sells his role as Trevor; even if a majority of the humor in the show wasn’t all that funny, the energy he brings is fully on display. The other actors such as Jing Lusi and Claude Blakley also do a pretty good job with what they’re given. There’s not a whole lot of depth to most of the characters here, but in a series like this, it doesn’t particularly matter, as the focus is on the comedy.
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Here’s the Bottom Line…
I realize that I was fairly harsh on ‘Man Vs. Bee’ here, but at the same time, I found myself ultimately unable to hate, or even dislike it all that much. This mini-series is perfectly serviceable fare for kids and families to spend a night watching, and despite my overall feelings toward the humor present, I can still appreciate the effort that went into it all. Though part of me still does have to question why ‘Man Vs. Bee’ was made as a mini-series, as it does carry strong made-for-TV movie vibes. Anyways, if you’re a fan of Rowan Atkinson or British comedy, it’s at least worth giving a shot. I probably won’t ever watch it again, but I am glad I gave it a chance.
Cast & Crew:
Directed by: David Kerr
Written by: William Davies
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Jing Lusi, Claude Blakley, Julian Rhind-Tutt, India Fowler
By Austin Oguri
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Austin Oguri is a screenwriter and has deep appreciation for the art of film in general, he aims to offer unique perspectives through his film reviews and feature articles. He also has a soft spot for lesser-known works, and enjoys spotlighting them whenever he can. Austin has always found it necessary for people to encourage and bring out the best in each other, and as a writer at The Hollywood Insider, he can combine that ideology with his ability to think outside the box and truly express his love for the arts in the best ways possible.