Some movies barely warrant an in-depth review. Downton Abbey is a good example. A feature-length sequel to the British TV drama that originally aired between 2010 and 2015, Downton Abbey is purely for the fans: if you're unfamiliar with the series, you have absolutely no reason to see this film; if you took pleasure in the series, as I did, then the film will satisfy.
Scripted by the show's creator Julian Fellowes and directed by Michael Engler, who helmed four of its later episodes (including the "Christmas episode" that capped the series), Downton Abbey picks up where we last left the Crawley clan and their charming servants, or at least a year and a half later: it is now 1927 and the estate is abuzz with the news that King George V and Queen Mary are planning an overnight stay during their tour of Northern England. The usual Downton subplots – a budding romance here, a misunderstanding there, a smidgen of social commentary off in the corner, and always some squabbling over inheritances – are introduced and then dealt with, and all is well.
When adapting a TV show for the big screen, filmmakers are expected to bump up the drama and expand the setting. But considering that Downton Abbey the series had its share of tragedy and scandal, Downton Abbey the movie is remarkably light, even inconsequential. But I don't say this with any snark. In fact Downton Abbey fits like a comfortable old pair of shoes, which is all you want sometimes. As for justifying a theatrical release, I will say that it is fun to share a laugh over Maggie Smith's bitchy lines with a like-minded audience, but otherwise this could have been another small-screen Christmas special.
In a parallel universe, I would've liked to see Fellowes attempt something bolder, like rubbing the Crawleys' noses in the Great Depression and the end of Britain's class system, or even fast-forwarding to the 21st century to show their descendants struggling with that impossibly unsustainable estate. Perhaps he will, someday. But for now, the Abbey and its inhabitants are beautifully preserved in 1927 amber. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.