(Air Date: Week Of 5/10/95)
"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 satirised 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 "Whiskey 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 Whiskey 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 Gaw'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's never been out on a date. But at least this time around, there's a pleasurable reason for his 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 dryly played by Ian McNeice) to stick around the village a bit longer. The linchpin of the community is Colm Meany as the 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, now 74, who began his career playing small roles in Will Hay comedies at Ealing while barely out of his teens. Now he plays venerable clerics (he was last seen with Grant in "4 Weddings And A Funeral") and here he makes a nice foil 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 humour might win this charming entry the status of a real sleeper before the summer blockbusters arrive on the scene.
Copyright 1995 Monica Sullivan
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