Picks and Pans Review: The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain

updated 05/15/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/15/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Hugh Grant, Tara Fitzgerald, Colm Meaney

The marquee-filling title is certainly a mouthful. But there is little of any real substance to chew on in this whimsically comic tale of how, in 1917, an entire Welsh village goes to work piling an extra 15 feet of dirt on the top of a local hill so that a couple of English mapmakers, who have just measured the slope and found it wanting, will reclassify it as a mountain. If the hill officially becomes a mountain, then both it and the small-but-proud village will appear on maps, and, as one local explains, "maps are the undergarments of a country."

The film is sweet and gently amusing, but other than tracking the progress of the courtship between Grant, one of the mapmakers, and Fitzgerald, a local lass trying to pique his libido long enough for the peak's augmentation to be completed, the movie is pretty much about hauling dirt from one spot to another. Indeed, the phrase "making a mountain out of a molehill" comes to mind repeatedly as director-writer Christopher Monger pads his slight story to movie length by including montage after montage of villagers digging sod up and pushing mud-filled wheelbarrows.

As the Englishman of the cumbersome title, Grant is a touch twitty, but just as charming as he was in last year's Four Weddings and a Funeral, though he has much less to play here in the way of a character. His best scenes are with the flinty Fitzgerald (A Man of No Importance). Meaney (The Snapper) is most amusing as the wily tavern owner who first suggests raising the hill to mountain height—and then enterprisingly sets up a mountainside beer stand. (PG)

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