Review: 'Downton Abbey' gives new life to PBS series

After four years, show returns with stately big screen presentation

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

The king and queen are heading through the countryside and are planning a stay at Downtown Abbey. 

That — along with the clamoring of fans — is reason enough to get the gang from the popular PBS series back together for another spot of tea, and "Downton Abbey" makes a loving tribute to the show that wrapped in 2015 after six successful seasons. 

Lesley Nicol, Sophie McShera, Jim Carter and Phyllis Logan in "Downton Abbey."

Fans of the original series know what to expect from this drama of class and manners in early 20th century England, and newbies will find an engaging story with an abundance of characters to try to keep straight. 

It's 1927 and a piece of mail that inspires at least one "blimey" arrives at Downton Abbey's front door. King George (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) will visit the estate during a royal tour, and preparations for their arrival must immediately begin. 

But much to the chagrin of the staff both upstairs and downstairs, the royals arrive with their own staff in tow. 

Nobody puts the Crawleys in a corner, so the staff — including cook Beryl (Lesley Nicol) and kitchen maid Daisy (Sophie McShera) — begins making plans of their own for a coup of sorts. And around the periphery, enough subplots emerge, including one concerning the future of the estate, to kickstart an entire new season of "Downtown Abbey."

The movie is full of rich, subtle charms, like the way Maggie Smith's Violet Crawley can eviscerate someone with just a glance. For period junkies, it's as rousing as "John Wick" is for action fans.Given the material, a rowdy cheer seems inappropriate, so a polite round of applause will do.

'Downton Abbey'


Rated PG: for thematic elements, some suggestive material, and language

Running time: 123 minutes