If producers want to adapt other television shows for the big screen, they might take a look at “Downton Abbey.”
Not only does it preserve all that was good about the series, it also introduces several elements that expand the drama – including characters who could carry this to a string of sequels.
Set several years after the PBS series ended, the new edition finds the Crawley family in a dither – the king and queen are going to pay a visit. Since Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) has already slashed the downstairs rolls, she’s at a loss to figure out how they can pull it off. Naturally, she pulls Carson (Jim Carter) back in and gets the party started.
The rub? The Royals have their own servants who think they’re going to take over. That causes raised tempers, abrupt words and a subplot right out of a host of comedies.
The visit, though, lets Countess Violet (Maggie Smith, who still gets the best lines) reconnect with an estranged relative who just happens to have a lot of money that could shore up Downton Abbey. Naturally, her cutting words haven’t exactly endeared her to Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), which makes the visit a bit strained.
Even worse? She has a maid, Lucy (Tuppence Middleton), who appears likely to inherit the fortune.
Tom Branson (Allen Leech), another outsider, gets to know Lucy a bit better and sets into motion the plot that could fuel “Downton Abbey 2.”
Writer Julian Fellowes has given everyone something to do and moments for the favorites to do what they do best.
Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt), for example, is hot on the trail of missing property while Barrow (Robert James-Collier) is bent out of shape because Carson has temporarily stepped in as the head of staff.
In play with the visitors, they’re shrewd and quite fun to watch.
While director Michael Engler more than gets his money’s worth from a drone that seems to be anywhere, the film version does give fans a better look at the inside of the building. The downstairs furnishings are particularly fun to eyeball.
While the king and queen are largely set pieces, allowing the upstairs folks to show life, it’s the downstairs reaction that really inspires. Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle) reveals every bit of excitement in their presence.
Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), for once, isn’t the dour one in the family. She’s got great news – and a killer dress that just needs alterations.
While “Downton” is obviously pitched at the faithful, there’s enough here to keep newbies interested – and maybe inspired to look at the whole series.
That sometimes dragged on. This, however, is like a vacation with deluxe accommodations.