The Stream: There’s a little too much going on for a 2-hour movie with such a large cast.
The Big Screen: Still filled with all of the charm and wit that made Downton Abbey beloved.
The Final Bill: A welcome return of the familiar favorites at Downton– Trip Fontaine
Director: Simon Curtis
Writers: Julian Fellowes
Stars: Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Hugh Dancy, Elizabeth McGovern
Genre: Drama, Romance
Runtime: 2 hours
Production Companies: Universal Pictures, Carnival Film & Television
Platform: In Theaters
Trailers: Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, Jurassic World Dominion, Mr. Malcolm’s List, Where the Crawdads Sing, Elvis, Minions: The Rise of Gru
Well, Streamers, we’re a couple weeks late on the new Downton Abbey sequel, which is cleverly titled, Downton Abbey: A New Era. A new era, you say? We shall see about that. When we get these sequels of popular television series, we really want what you love from the series, but also something to justify the price of theater admission. Otherwise, these sequels could just be a TV movie, right? As a Downton Abbey fan, I’m predisposed to enjoy returning to the 1920s English countryside, but is there anything here for the uninitiated? Here’s how the new era at the Abbey shakes up.
Do you really need a synopsis? It’s more Downton Abbey, for goodness sake. You have tea. You have scandal. You have upstairs and downstairs light drama. There are some quips thrown about, and, of course, the threat of the outside world comes to Downton as well. In particular, the Dowager Countess has inherited, unexpectedly, a French villa from a past acquaintance. Part of the Crawley family heads to the south of France to check out the new vacation spot. The remaining Crawley bunch stay at Downton because a film crew is coming to make a motion picture. Hijinks ensue.
All of the favorites from the series are back, except for Lady Mary’s husband. I guess Matthew Goode was busy on some other project to return to Downton. Nevertheless, it seems the family keeps growing in to the late 1920s. The promise of a bright future also always reminds the Crawley family of the impending end of an era. It is a welcome treat to return to the Downton Abbey Universe (DAU…work with me here) as it keeps expanding. The best part is that it feels so familiar. The production values and costumes look great on film. Julian Fellowes has a great grasp of these character and the light tone that has carried throughout the series. Sure, there’s drama and scandal, but it all very measured and easy. The general low stakes makes Downton Abbey a fun watch.
The only real issue is that there is such a sprawling cast that the movie can only do so much in 2 hours. The plot splits the cast into two groups, which makes it more manageable, but some characters still get the short end of the stick. As a fan, I could spend more than 2 hours with this series. I’d like for this to have been a 3-hour limited series. That could have been cool. While a non-fan can enjoy this film, I suspect that the size of the cast and brisk pace of the movie may make it difficult to digest without a little background. Nevertheless, there is always something going on, it is edited very well, and the charm and wit will suck you in no matter what.
Ultimately, Downton Abbey: A New Era does everything its fans want it to do. It has that same light energy that was present throughout the tv series and the first film. The Crawley family continues to grow and move through society with aplomb. Charm, wit and a lot of heart abound. Fans have been served well by this sequel. Yes, everyone else can enjoy this sequel, but it clearly has more depth for those predisposed to the DAU. Fans get your big box of popcorn and enjoy, if you haven’t already. Everyone else grab a bowl and enjoy a matinee, if you choose.