KEEPING MUM (Niall Johnson). 103 minutes. Opens Friday (September 29). For venues and times, see Movies, page 108. Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
If Keeping Mum does nothing else, it should boost tourism to small-town England. I stayed till the end credits, not because the movie was great but because I wanted to know where it was filmed. Memo to self: phone travel agent, ask about Isle of Man, Cornwall. The stone houses, rocky shores and rolling hills are far more watchable than anything else in this unfunny black comedy about a murderous old housekeeper ( Maggie Smith ) who disrupts a vicar's family.
That the absent-minded vicar is played by Rowan Atkinson and his sarcastic, frustrated wife by Kristin Scott Thomas should give you some idea of the bone-headed casting. Throw in an appearance by the leathery-faced Patrick Swayze as the wife's American golf pro lover and you've got the makings of something in such bad taste it could actually be fun.
Alas, the script by director Niall Johnson and (incredibly) Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Russo is full of bad puns and obvious jokes, creating an uncomfortable mix of acting styles.
Those gorgeous landscapes, including Scott Thomas's glacial profile, deserve better.