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Downton Abbey: The Motion Picture (2019)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/17/2019

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/10/2019

For decades, movies and television have had a symbiotic relationship and not just for the fact that actors often move back and forth between the mediums.  Over the years, we’ve seen theatrical films into TV shows and, conversely, long-running TV programs have been translated into major motion pictures.  When the latter event occurs, the general rule is that the movie will mostly retain the same characters and ideas as the show, but things will be much bigger and better.  After all, a movie should be a spectacle, right?  Apparently, the makers of Downton Abbey: The Motion Picture didn’t get that memo.

Downton Abbey: The Motion Picture takes place a short time after the finale of the television series.  The Grantham family continues to reside in the palatial Downton Abbey with their star.  Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) is attempting to enjoy semi-retirement as his daughter, Mary (Michelle Dockery) and former son-in-law, Tom (Allen Leech), oversee the day-to-day running of the estate.  However, the house is thrown into an uproar when it’s learned that the King and Queen will be visiting Downton on their tour of the countryside.  Head Cook Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) and Butler Thomas (Robert James-Collier) are crest-fallen when they learn that the Royal house-staff will be taking over Downton.  Head housekeeper Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) doesn’t like this plan, so she drags former head butler (and her husband) Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) out of retirement in order to help the staff represent Downton.  Meanwhile, Edith (Laura Carmichael) is dealing with the fact that the King wants her husband to leave the country during a pivotal time in her life.

As the Downton Abbey series concluded in 2016, for the feature film, Downton Abbey: The Motion Picture had to walk a fine line.  Coming so soon after the show’s finale, the movie couldn’t do anything radically different.  On the other hand, it had to do something unlike the series.  It certainly achieves that first goal.  As the film opens, we are immediately taken back into the world of Downton Abbey, with the same characters and settings.  The story wastes no time into getting back into the swing of things and it certainly feels comfortable.  Everything that you loved about the show is on display here. 

Which brings us to the problem with Downton Abbey: The Motion Picture – they didn’t get the memo about movies being big.  In the beginning, it’s great that the film feels like the show, but at some point, we expect it to take off and be broader and have more scope.  But, this never happens.  No one came into this expecting a special effects extravaganza or for the Grantham’s to go into space, but something a bit more grandiose would have been nice.  Instead, we get drama which actually pales into comparison to what we saw on the show.  The main point of tension in the movie is that the Royals are coming to visit.  I’m not British, so perhaps I don’t understand the stress involved in such an event, but it’s clear that this is supposed to be a huge deal.  But, all that it really does is introduce us to a family who are fancier than the Grantham’s.  The anxiety over the visit doesn’t leave the screen and the battle for superiority amongst the servants really falls flat.  There are a few subplots here which are somewhat intriguing, but the events surrounding the King and Queen simply don’t resonate.

The “Downton Abbey Series Recap” included here (which should have been prominently featured on the Main Menu) reminds us the kind of soap-opera shenanigans which ran through the series.  (Affairs!  Death!  Bastards!)  This only helps to emphasize how overtly low-key the movie is.  Yes, it’s great to see these characters again and true fans of the show will bet goosebumps when the score swells during the opening, but the overall effect of the film is lackluster.  Again, I didn’t expect to be knocked out of my seat, but I also didn’t expect a story which felt like some leftover ideas from the original series.  Downton Abbey: The Motion Picture certainly didn’t do anything to sully the reputation of the show, but it definitely wasted the opportunity to be the ultimate story of the Grantham family.

Downton Abbey: The Motion Picture could have used a lot more Dowager on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment.  The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 33 Mbps.  The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials.  The colors look fantastic and the image is never overly dark or bright.  The level of detail is quite impressive, as we can make out the textures on objects and the depth works quite well.  This certainly rivals HD broadcasts of the show.  The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.5 Mbps.  The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects.  The track truly shines which the score is being utilized, as the music fills the speakers and provides a wealth of individual sounds and subwoofer effects.  The parade sequence also delivers impressive surround sound, as the noises of the crowd is spread amongst the front and rear channels.

The Downton Abbey: The Motion Picture Blu-ray Disc contains several extras.  We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Michael Engler.  However, our first stop should most likely be the “Downton Abbey Series Recap”.  Hosted by Jim Carter and Phyllis Logan, this 10-minute refresher is a must-see, even if you are a fan of the show.  The Disc offers eight DELETED SCENES which run about 6 minutes.  There are no new character or subplots to be had here.  “Cast Conversations” is divided into two sections, “Upstairs Cast” (7 minutes) and “Downstairs Cast” (9 minutes), and allows the actors to discuss what it was like coming back together for the film.  “The Royal Visit” (3 minutes) simply gives an overview of that part of the story, including the historical perspective.  The authenticity of the props, costumes, and settings are explored in “True to the Twenties” (2 minutes).  “Welcome to Downton Abbey” (3 minutes) looks at the castle used in the film and how it was shot.  “The Brilliance of Julian Fellowes” (2 minutes) gives the cast a chance to talk about how the show’s creator navigated the film.

Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long