If you're a fan of comedies about the eccentric denizens of quirky little English hamlets with names like "Little Wollop," chances are you're going enjoy Keeping Mum (2005). Thanks to its talented cast, Niall Johnson's genial tale of murder and domestic life is entertaining enough, even if it doesn't break any new cinematic ground. At the center of the action is the Goodfellow family earnest vicar Walter (Rowan Atkinson), his frustrated wife Gloria (Kristin Scott Thomas), and their kids, flirtatious teen Holly (Tamsin Egerton) and nervous grade-schooler Petey (Toby Perkins). They've got their share of problems: Walter is so distracted by an upcoming religious convention that he's not paying any attention to Gloria, who's on the verge of an affair with her suave golf pro, Lance (Patrick Swayze); Holly's rebelling; and Petey keeps getting picked on at school. Enter housekeeper Grace Hawkins (Maggie Smith), a Mary Poppins-meets-Mrs. Doubtfire type who starts setting things right the minute she arrives on scene. Of course, Grace's methods are a little...unorthodox, which just might be connected to the movie's 1960s-set opening sequence, in which a young pregnant woman is arrested (and committed) for blithely murdering her cheating husband and his mistress. The plot twists aren't exactly hard to ferret out, and the characters aren't particularly deep, but the actors give the movie enough charm to coast by on. Smith mixes grandmotherly kindness with a dash of tart devilishness as Grace, and her stoic determination to do whatever it takes to help her adopted family is a nice twist on the traditional British "get on with it" mentality. Scott Thomas is an expert at playing upper-middle-class dissatisfaction, and she makes Gloria both sympathetic and maddening you can see why she's fed up with Walter (who's yet another variation on Atkinson's typical bumbling nice-guy persona), but her attraction to Lance (Swayze plays him as a swaggering, over-confident lech) is mystifying. Luckily, there's never any doubt that with Grace's help everyone in Little Wollop is going to see the light in the end. Amiable and unchallenging, Keeping Mum is a good fit for DVD; ThinkFilm presents the movie in a nice anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (2.0 stereo is also available, as are Spanish subtitles and English closed captions). The relatively hearty list of extras includes an informative commentary by Johnson, an extended version of the scene in which Walter tends goal disastrously, ten bonus scenes (with optional director's commentary), the original opening sequence (also with optional commentary), a blooper reel (6 min.), the theatrical trailer, and a gallery of trailers for other ThinkFilm titles. Keep-case.
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