We all can relate to the frustration of having a pesky, winged, uninvited guest in the house, distracting us with its annoying buzzing or burdening us with the threat of a dreaded sting. However, to watch someone else have to deal with such an issue themselves can be pretty funny, especially when that someone is Rowan Atkinson. The British comedian goes through exactly that in Man vs. Bee.
Now available to stream, this new addition to the 2022 Netflix TV schedule takes a common pet peeve like accidentally letting a bumble bee inside, and all the ways one might try to get rid of the pest, and cranks it all up to an uproariously extreme degree. Despite its simple concept, it is easily one of the best comedy shows on Netflix right now, in my opinion. The following is a quick, SPOILER-FREE breakdown of why I believe Man vs. Bee is a classic comedy fan’s dream come true, starting with some praise for its incomparable star.
Man Vs. Bee Sees Rowan Atkinson Doing What He Does Best
One of the world’s greatest living comedic geniuses, as far as I am concerned, is Rowan Atkinson, whom you may recognize as the persnickety jeweler from Love Actually or from Disney’s original The Lion King cast as the voice of Zazu. However, he is even better known as the star and co-creator of hilarious series like the satirical revisionist history, Blackadder, and of enduring characters like the bumbling man-child Mr. Bean. There is an inkling of DNA originating from all of Atkinson’s best work to be found in Man vs. Bee.
Atkinson, who also created the series with Johnny English movies writer Will Davies, stars as Trevor Bingley, who has been hired by a snobbish couple (Nina Kolstad and Julian Rhind-Tutt) to look after their house and dog, both of which quickly fall victim to the man’s increasingly desperate attempts to kill a very invasive bumble bee. It is one of the more high-energy performances of his career, especially as of late, that wins laughs with every one of his silly mannerisms, cartoonish pratfalls, and words of dialogue. However, this is a performance that never required much dialogue anyway.
Man Vs. Bee Looks To Be A Return To Form For (Partially) Silent Comedy
The key element of all the Mr. Bean TV specials and movies is how rarely the brutish titular character speaks. The laughs are born almost purely out of what Rowan Atkinson achieves with his body while in character, earning the actor a spot among legendary physical comedians like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton years and years after the Silent Film era. Now, years after Mr. Bean saw silent comedy make a quasi comeback, Man vs. Bee could be the beginning of another resurgence for that style of comedy.
The series is one of the best examples of almost purely visual comedy to debut in recent years, with the bulk of the action being just that: action. Of course, there is plenty of dialogue, but mainly to provide exposition when necessary. In addition to some of the intriguing plot twists that occur along the way, the dialogue is especially necessary to get us acquainted with what kind of person Trevor Bingley is.
The “Hero” Is A Bumbling Goof Worth Rooting For
When filming a retrospective of his most iconic characters for GQ, Rowan Atkinson pointed out that a majority of the roles he plays tend to be very self-obsessed, before giving special mention to Mr. Bean in that regard. However, Trevor Bingley is one of the first characters of his who is actually a relatively nice person who easily earns your sympathies, and not just because it is easy to relate to someone at odds with an insect.
Bingley is a recently divorced man hoping to do right by his supportive teenage daughter (India Fowley) and, thus, is on a mission to do his best with his new house sitting gig no matter how disastrous things get. However, while it is easy to blame the titular “Bee” for his troubles, much of the issues are, indeed, the result of his own absent-mindedness, but he always does make some (admittedly feeble) attempt to resolve things. Still, his kindhearted demeanor and devotion to his family keeps you rooting for him to win the war against the Bee, even if his methods for destroying it are clearly a bad idea.
It Is A Refreshingly Quick Binge
I do not know about you, but the one major downside for me about starting a new TV show to binge is the time it can sometimes take to finish a whole season - such as how Stranger Things’ Season 4 finale alone was longer than the average length of a movie. However, that was not the case for Man vs. Bee, which is about the average length of a movie.
The whole season (which could be its first and last run as there is no word of it getting renewed yet) is basically a 100-minute feature divided into nine chapters each lasting 10 minutes or so. It is yet another reminder of the state of comedy in the Silent Era, during which short form serials were more common. Not to mention, Man vs. Bee is one of the few bingeable TV shows on Netflix (or anywhere, really) that you could watch in its entirety in one night and have enough time to see as many more times as you would like.
Man Vs. Bee Is Fun The Whole Family Can Enjoy
The modest runtime of Man vs. Bee also would allow parents the chance to watch it on their own before deciding if it is suitable for their children to watch. However, I can save you that time right now: it totally is suitable for children.
If Man vs. Bee was a theatrically released film, it would have undoubtedly earned the PG rating from the MPAA, as there is absolutely no use of fowl language nor sexual situations of any sort. The only thing that likely prevents it from earning a G rating instead is the mild violence throughout, which is never gratuitous nor graphic and often looks like it was pulled right out of a Looney Tunes short by its cartoonish presentation.
It is also especially refreshing to see Netflix come out with a series that all members of the family can enjoy, and as many times as they want, with Man vs. Bee. If you have not experienced all the laughs and destruction yet, I hope this little moment of appreciation for Rowan Atkinson’s latest great work made you curious.
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.