If there’s one positive thing about Delta Farce is that is actually follows a tried and true comedy formula-- namely the fish-out-of-water scenario—with moderate success. Down on his luck after losing his job and his girlfriend on the same day Larry (of the Cable Guy variety) decides to join his neighbor Bill (Bill Engvall) and his combat-happy buddy Everett (DJ Qualls) for a relaxing weekend of playing army. But when the three unlucky guys are mistaken for Army Reservists they’re loaded onto an army plane headed for Iraq--and mistakenly ejected in a Humvee somewhere over Mexico. Don’t ask. Convinced they’re actually in the Middle East the clueless wannabe soldiers turn into Magnificent Seven meets the Three Amigos and save a rural village from a siege of bandits proving to be real heroes after all. If you need to laugh at the war on terror you might as well do it with Larry the Cable Guy. He serves up his particular brand of comedy making light of a bad situation. In fact not only does he come off somewhat sympathetically as the hapless boob with a heart of gold he also gets the hot chick at the end of the movie. Go Larry! As his accomplice fellow stand-up Bill Engvall follows his own comic routine playing a hen-pecked trailer trash denizen who views this adventure as a great way to escape his overbearing wife and snotty kids. As the third doofus DJ Qualls (Hustle & Flow) plays a trigger-happy wannabe jarhead who sees this opportunity as a way to gain some street cred. And in a supporting role Danny Trejo a Robert Rodriguez regular pokes fun at his scary looks as the leader of the marauding bandits aptly named Carlos Santana. Yes the jokes are plenty. Director C.B.Harding is obviously a Larry the Cable Guy crony since his only other feature film credit is the Blue Collar Comedy Tour movie. Honestly all that’s really required of him is to point and shoot with maybe a few action sequences to coordinate here and there. But while the formula works as a cohesive movie having to sit through Delta Farce’s comic stylings is the tricky part. What it really boils down to is whether you’re a fan of Larry the Cable Guy. If so you’ll (I would hope) realize you’re watching a pretty stupid comedy but will laugh in the appropriate parts. If not I would really wonder what the heck you are doing sitting in the theater.
In 1960s England a young pregnant woman is arrested and sent to a facility for the criminally insane for casually butchering her philandering husband and his mistress. Flash forward 43 years to the tiny hamlet of Little Wollop where fed-up vicar's wife Gloria Goodfellow (Kristin Scott Thomas) is ready to ditch her earnest hands-off husband Walter (Rowan Atkinson) in favor of buff American golf pro Lance (Patrick Swayze). That is until the advent of new housekeeper Grace Hawkins (Maggie Smith). Like a gray-haired Mary Poppins Grace quickly sets about putting Gloria's life to rights from helping timid son Petey (Toby Parkes) get over his fear of bullies to encouraging Walter to spice up his sermons. The fact that Grace's methods are rather er unorthodox is hardly surprising and neither is the film's ultimate resolution--although getting there is amusing enough. Most of Keeping Mum's success can be attributed to its two female stars. Scott Thomas and Smith are both consummate professionals tackling their somewhat standard-issue roles with game enthusiasm. Smith (aka Professor Minerva McGonagall from the Harry Potter movies) plays Grace with a determined twinkle that could simply be a prim elderly woman's possessive affection for her adopted clan--or just as easily the glint of a madwoman on a mission. And Scott Thomas as always does English upper-middle-class to a tee. Neither Atkinson nor Swayze really tackle any new ground character-wise: Swayze's whole performance seems to build up to the point where he gets to take off his shirt and Atkinson's Walter goes so far as to blunder into a Four Weddings and a Funeral-esque malapropism at one point. But the men aren't the main attraction here. With Keeping Mum writer/director Niall Johnson follows in the footsteps of several other calculatedly eccentric comedies about quirky English folks from The Full Monty and Calendar Girls to Waking Ned Devine and Saving Grace. Like its predecessors the film is often charming but unlike many of them it unfortunately never really hits its comedic stride. Much of the humor is more likely to elicit mild chuckles than belly laughs mostly because very little of what happens is surprising. For a black comedy Keeping Mum is neither particularly dark nor particularly funny--it's diverting enough while you're watching but in the end it's about as memorable as another misty day on the English moors.