Riding Bean (1989)
Directed by Yasuo Hasegawa and Osamu Kamijoo

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* *

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Bean, a courier of illegal goods, takes on an assignment to deliver an abducted girl to her millionaire father. He quickly discovers, however, that he has been duped and involved as a decoy in a conspiracy to extort money from the child's parent.

Yasuo Hasegawa and Osamu Kamijoo's animated film Riding Bean is frequently entertaining, but its faults are severe enough to reduce its appeal considerably.

Bean himself is an amusing, Rabelaisian character. Endowed with superhuman strength, he is able to crush mouthfuls of walnuts with his teeth and displays a fantastic tolerance for pain, as when his partner awakens him from sleep by pressing a heated frying pan against his cheek. This partner, Rally, is not, however, developed to any degree. The only reason she is in the film is to provide Bean with an attractive female companion. The supporting characters contribute even less to the movie's quality, and several are frankly annoying. The worst of them is a police officer obsessed with capturing Bean. He is a completely uninteresting, stereotyped character and is irksome to watch.

Sadly, the quality of the film's narrative is as uneven as is the appeal of its characters. While the directors do introduce a number of intriguing themes into the story, none are developed, and their depictions of the efforts of the police to capture Bean are completely ridiculous. Riding Bean's narrative is, consequently, at best, little more than an excuse for a series of action sequences, although these are well done and enjoyable. In fact, the viewer appreciative of exciting car chases, gun battles, and the like will find much to enjoy. Anyone hoping to see the various threads introduced into the plot dealt with in a satisfactory way and anyone bothered by inane exaggeration will, however, be dissatisfied with the material presented between those sequences.

Visually, Riding Bean is just as mediocre as it is narratively. In fact, though the animation is generally somewhat better than that of most animated television programs aimed at children, it does, occasionally, deteriorate considerably. There is just nothing pleasing or memorable about it.

Ultimately, the film's greatest problem is that it is simply too brief. There is much potentially interesting content, but little or nothing is done with most of it. As a consequence, Riding Bean's duller or more annoying elements are brought to the fore and allowed to dominate the movie. The action sequences, taken individually, are enjoyable, but, as a whole, Riding Bean is not satisfying.

Review by Keith Allen

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