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The Englishman Who Went up a Hill But Came down a Mountain Movie Review

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The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain is a direct descendant of the classic Ealing comedies circa 1949. A quaint, decidedly regional British situation is gently but persistently satirized for the entire film. In this case, we are looking at a small village in Wales, where a visual quote about the chief recreational activity (i.e. making babies) is affectionately reminiscent of the opening shot of Whisky Galore. The point of the story—that World War I has so devastated the young male population of Ffynnon Garw that the village needs a symbol like the first mountain in Wales to bolster its identity—is lighter than air. (For that matter, so was the premise of Whisky Galore.) Writer/director Christopher Monger embroiders this delicate tale, derived from his grandfather's bedtime stories, with loving detail. Hugh Grant is Reginald, the English twit who comes to survey Ffynnon Garw's so-called mountain and winds up falling in love with the place. As usual, the devilishly attractive Grant, stutters and mumbles his way through the plot as if he'd never been out on a date. But this time at least, there's a plausible reason for his social jitters. Tara Fitzgerald, Grant's restless bride in Sirens, is bewitching here as Betty of Cardiff, who persuades Reginald and his drunk surveying partner George Garrad (ever so drily played by Ian McNeice) to stick around the village a bit longer. The lynchpin of the community is Colm Meaney as bartender Morgan the Goat, who's responsible for so many ginger-haired babies born during the war years. And then there is Ian Hart as a shell-shocked war veteran named Johnny (not Lennon for a change), and Kenneth Griffith, then 74, who began his career playing small roles in Will Hay comedies at Ealing while barely out of his teens. In recent years, he's often cast as venerable clerics (he had previously worked with Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral) and he makes a nice foil here as Morgan's fire and brimstone nemesis. The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain hasn't a smidgin of breathtaking suspense, but it's lovely to look at and its gentle humor wins this delightful entry the status of one of 1995's most charming sleepers.

1995 (PG) 96m/C GB Hugh Grant, Tara Fitzgerald, Colm Meaney, Ian McNeice, Ian Hart, Kenneth Griffith; D: Christopher Monger; W: Christopher Monger; C: Vernon Layton; M: Stephen Endelman. VHS, LV, Closed Caption

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