Two thumbs “Downton.”
PBS viewers will recall those classy evenings spent with “Downton Abbey,” the charming British series about a noble family in Yorkshire and their giant manse, which aired from 2010 to 2015. The Crawleys’ and their servants’ affairs and silverware disasters were a pleasure to watch.
And then, like all good things, “Downton” ended. Or it should’ve, because its new film continuation is as forced and unnecessary as a curtsy to Meghan Markle.
In this lifeless blob of brass fixtures and aerial shots, the Downton denizens are thrown into a tizzy when a letter arrives saying that the king and queen are coming for a visit. Polish the candlesticks! Iron the sheets! Dredge up the drama!
The main conflict is a stupid one. The butler, maids and valets of Downton are unceremoniously told they won’t be serving the royals dinner — the Buckingham Palace staff will get that honor instead. Miffed, the Downtonians take matters into their own hands, arguably committing treason in the process.
The other, slightly more intriguing complication is the arrival of the Dowager Countess’ (Maggie Smith, always fab) estranged cousin Lady Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), who works for the queen. Bagshaw is childless and has no heir for her ample land and fortune, making Robert (Hugh Bonneville) the logical recipient. But she stubbornly refuses. The whole dust-up is easily resolved by the end.
If none of this sounds like a movie, it’s because it shouldn’t be one. Julian Fellowes would have been far better off writing another relaxed Christmas special to satisfy fans. But to pump up the film’s flowery, small-screen plot, shots are overly sweeping and every character’s entrance is given a metaphorical drumroll. The sexy intimacy that made the TV show great is destroyed. Fellowes also went way too wild on the zingers, and suddenly every lady’s maid is Oscar Wilde.
Speaking of the actors, most of them — Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Allen Leech, etc. — are back. And, like the dining room china, they’re fine.
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