THE ENGLISHMAN WHO WENT UP A HILL, BUT CAME DOWN A MOUNTAIN is one
of those terminally cute, quirky British comedies. It is a movie
populated with sweet, non-offensive characters. It is told as if it
were a true story and yet the tone of the film is that of an Aesop
fable. It is the sort of show that will undoubtedly work its charm on
many of you.
Although the movie is billed as the latest Hugh Grant flick, it is
an ensemble cast. Grant plays Reginald Anson who, with his coworker
George Garrad (Ian McNeice), are English cartographers. They have been
assigned by their government in 1917 to determine the exact height of
the "first mountain in Wales". This first mountain is the one just
over the Welsh border in Ffynnon Garw.
The townsfolk of Ffynnon Garw are proud of their mountain, but to
be a government certified mountain, it must be at least 1,000 feet
tall. The locals led by the local publican, Morgan the Goat (Colm
Meaney), are aghast when Garrad and Anson declare their mountain to be
just shy of 1,000 feet and hence must forever after must be known as
merely a hill. Morgan enlists everyone, even his nemesis, the local
preacher, Reverend Jones (Kenneth Griffith), and his favorite of his
many girlfriends, Betty (Tara Fitzgerald), to implement his scheme to
fix the problem. The movie is about the fix.
The story is predictable which is probably okay since it is a
fable and not a mystery. The characters are all played with great and
consistent gusto by all of the cast. My favorite was Tara Fitzgerald
(from A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE, SIRENS, HEAR MY SONG, "Cadfael" (TV), and
"Fall from Grace" (TV)) who continues to impress me in how she can make
a minor character so compelling. All she needs do is give her
infectious smile at the right time and the screen lights up. Hugh
Grant (so wonderful in FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL and SIRENS among
others) gave a nice performance, but not his best.
The director (Christopher Monger) was in complete control and
crafted a movie clearly reflecting what he had to set out to do. It is
his goal and the script he wrote that was my problem with the picture.
For me the characters, while cute, were not credible enough to be
believable nor humorous enough to be funny. To me it was an attempt at
droll humor that failed. I almost felt guilty about not caring more
for a sweet little movie with carefully drawn characters, effective
cinematography (Vernon Layton), and dramatic music (Stephen Endelman).
I found the slow pacing by the editor (David Martin) and the low key
tone of the dialog boring and even sleep inducing at points.
Copyright © 1995 Steve Rhodes