Better on set-up than follow-through, this adaptation of Dodie Smith's novel profiles a family of English eccentrics living in squalor in a rundown castle. The Mortmains -- who are biding their time until Daddy gets the inspiration to start writing again -- are fun-nutty, not obnoxious-nutty, and the film's good-natured tone even persists when an American clan (including Henry Thomas, E.T.'s old pal) shows up to take command of the property. For a time, the flirtation between these rich, strapping young Yanks and the downmarket Mortmain daughters makes some valid points about the economics of romance. Thereafter, the movie collapses into the sort of mush you were hoping it would avoid: Every scene is now a tearful confrontation between two aggrieved parties. In other words, it becomes the sort of movie that characters in other movies go to see. Drat.
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