Saving Grace

Aug 16, 2000 at 12:00 am
Like Waking Ned Devine before it, Saving Grace is trying to duplicate the successful formula of The Full Monty: take an oddball group of down-and-outers, give them an unusual (if not downright illegal) plan for getting rich, and watch the comic sparks fly. Which means that Saving Grace isn’t a terribly bad film, just a woefully uninspired one. Director Nigel Cole is eager to trot out familiar stereotypes of British eccentrics living in the kind of tightly knit rural community where everyone is willing to pull together and help out whomever’s in need.

Grace (Brenda Blethyn) appears to be leading a life as orderly as her well-tended garden, until her husband’s death reveals her marriage and prosperity were a carefully maintained sham. Matthew (Scottish comedian Craig Ferguson, who co-wrote the script with Mark Crowdy) does odd jobs at Grace’s large house. Much to the chagrin of his practical-minded girlfriend Nicky (Valerie Edmond), who runs a fishing boat, Matthew also has a small sideline growing marijuana.

When Grace’s gardening skills result in the blossoming of several moribund plants, she and Matthew strike up a plan to grow a large batch of the profitable herb in her greenhouse in order to pay off debts and save her beloved manor from the auction block.

The humor then becomes all about avoidance: Who in their small Cornwall village knows about the pot business and how do they react? For every funny aside from local physician and reefer enthusiast, Dr. Bamford (Martin Clunes), there are excruciatingly silly scenes of two elderly ladies who, after brewing up a particularly potent batch of tea, find themselves giggling nonstop with a raging case of the munchies.

Nothing in Saving Grace goes beyond this comfortable Brit sitcom humor, although the film perks up enormously with the appearance of a French drug dealer (Tcheky Karyo) who adds a needed sense of danger to the proceedings. Still it’s a case of too little, too late.

Saving Grace may have its funny moments, but every laugh is lessened by a nagging sense of déjà vu.

Opens Friday exclusively at the Maple Art Theatre (4135 W. Maple, W. of Telegraph). Call 248-542-0180.

Serena Donadoni writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected].