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Keeping Mum

Josh Bell

But despite Smith's inarguable acting chops, Keeping Mum, in which she plays a murderous but well-meaning housekeeper, is not much of a showcase for her talents, or a particularly noteworthy addition to its genre. Other dependable British thespians give dependable performances—Rowan Atkinson as the clueless small-town vicar who hires Smith's deceptively grandmotherly Grace to run his household; Kristin Scott Thomas as the vicar's put-upon wife—and the typical types who populate this genre show up predictably, including the local busybody, the old guy who's comically hard of hearing and the one local stud.

As Grace goes about cheerfully offing anyone who gets in the way of the family's happiness, the movie takes a refreshingly pro-murder tone that would be more interesting if it were given any sort of bite. Instead, it's just sloppy plotting, as all of Grace's meddling makes only superficial changes that don't address any real issues, but somehow solves everyone's problems nonetheless.

The charm of this genre has worn thin after endless variations on the concept, and Keeping Mum is decidedly short on genuinely funny moments. Atkinson gets about half a scene to do his bumbling Mr. Bean shtick, and otherwise plays things disappointingly straight. After quaint small-town residents stripping, stealing a dead man's lottery winnings, growing marijuana and shoeing drag queens, committing murder is perhaps the next logical step; it might work as a parody of this genre if it weren't played just like another formulaic retread.

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