Keeping Mum

Opens at Seven Gables, Fri., Sept. 29. Rated R. 90 minutes.

Exactly the sort of coy, patronizing pap you'd imagine actors like Kristin Scott Thomas and Maggie Smith take merely to pay debts or mortgages, Keeping Mum involves a country vicar (Rowan Atkinson), his sexually frustrated wife (Thomas, pining for Atkinson's attention), and a dotty busybody maid (Smith) who seems to solve the family's various problems with just a twinkle of her watery eye. If the exquisite, heather-thatch-and-old-churchyard village ambience doesn't assail your blood sugar, Dickon Hinchliffe's nonstop, abusively rosy-cheeked soundtrack will. (It seems perpetually on the verge of bursting into "Que Sera Sera.") But—and this is where I imagine Richard Russo's original story comes in—thanks to an opening flashback, we know that Smith's coot is actually a quiet sociopathic husband killer, and the bodies begin to primly drop. (One of them, thank Christ, is Patrick Swayze, as a seductive-lech golf pro jeopardizing the family's struggling equilibrium.) Obvious, simplistic, and never funny, Johnson's movie may be useful only as real-estate porn—Cornwall and the Isle of Man never looked so super cute. MICHAEL ATKINSON

 
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