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Downton Abbey 2 Reviews Are Here, See What Critics Have To Say About A New Era

Downton Abbey: A New Era
(Image credit: Focus Features)

It's been a couple of years since we've last been privy to the scandal and romance of the Crawleys. Downton Abbey: A New Era will see the family inherit a villa in the south of France, thanks to a shocking revelation from the Dowager Countess (Dame Maggie Smith). While some journey out to learn more about this particular gift, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) is left to oversee, interestingly enough, the filming of a major motion picture at Downton Abbey — how exciting!

Downton Abbey: A New Era doesn't premiere in the U.S. until May 20, but the U.K. will get the film a little earlier, on April 29. For that reason, critics have already seen the movie and the reviews are in. What did they think of the Crawleys' latest adventures?

Let's start with CinemaBlend's review of Downton Abbey: A New Era. Mike Reyes scored the sequel 3.5 stars out of 5, saying this film was made with die-hard Downton fans in mind. He does say it's a comparative step back from its predecessor, but it's still got charm to spare and embraces the franchise's history while laying a path to the future:

For now, it’s safe to say that this latest visit with the Crawleys is a well-earned sequel that takes chances and still leaves its fans either smiling or with tears in their eyes. That’s not a spoiler, as it’s basically the standard playbook for Downton Abbey. So long as that never changes, the chances taken in the long run won’t ruin the charms of this still beloved franchise.

Anna Smith of Deadline says the movie crams a lot into its runtime, and contains plenty of plot twists, some of which are pretty transparent. Fans won't be mad at it though, and she says Dame Maggie Smith, as ever, is a scene-stealer:

Despite strong turns all round, Maggie Smith continues to scene-steal from her evidently willing co-stars. 'What a colourful life you lead,' she comments witheringly, after one of Myrna’s particularly gauche statements. And on the subject of acting? 'I’d rather earn my living down a mine.' More poignant moments tug at the heartstrings effectively, and are swiftly followed by smiles: this is a film designed to cheer people up. The script even goes so far as to make a few veiled references to the pandemic, suggesting that the Downton residents are not the only ones who have lost loved ones and had a hard time.

David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter says if the first Downton Abbey film was low-stakes comfort food to please fans of the series, the sequel is more of the same, despite a title that seems to promise more. As the other critics mention, this one is really just for the fans:

Only in the moving final scenes does real pathos intrude, but even that’s slathered in corny summation dialogue that borders on sweet self-parody. 'I suppose individual Crawleys come and go, but the family lives on,' sighs Lady Mary. Whether that means a Downton Abbey threequel will depend on how much the over-qualified cast is content to keep returning to roles that have now become animated props. It seems irresponsible to give actors of the caliber of Imelda Staunton and Penelope Wilton so little to do. But in the age of endlessly recycled IP, is any cash cow ever really put out to pasture? Unthinkable!

Matthew Bilodeau of SlashFilm seems to enjoy the film for more than its cash cow potential, rating it an 8 out of 10. He calls the sequel vibrant and emotional, saying this script brings out the charm in its characters, particularly the new additions to the franchise:

But the biggest surprise is the new additions to the cast. Laura Haddock (Da Vinci's Demons) sparkles as the glamorous diva Myrna Dalgleish. Dominic West (The Affair) effortlessly plays the dashing Guy Dexter, a Douglas Fairbanks Sr. type who exudes his charisma throughout the manor, particularly with Thomas. It's Hugh Dancy (Hannibal), however, who's given the most opportunity to shine as Jack Barber, the film's director, as he builds a surprisingly sweet rapport with Lady Mary.

While even the toughest critics agree Dame Maggie Smith can give any line a good amount of zip, Nicholas Barbar of The Wrap says this sequel throws away any semblance of plausibility and doesn't even offer much drama:

But even by the standards of film sequels based on cozily nostalgic Sunday-evening soap operas, his exposition-loaded screenplay is woefully short of wit, depth, or anything that a human being might actually say. Indeed, it raises the question of whether he wrote a script at all, or whether he just scribbled the gist of each uneventful scene on a stack of Post-It notes, and instructed the actors to convey that gist in the bluntest possible way.

This sounds like one the die-hard fans aren't going to want to miss, but those new to the franchise probably shouldn't start here. If this sounds like a movie you've got to see, you unfortunately will still have to wait a few weeks. While Downton Abbey: A New Era originally set to hit theaters in March, the movie has been shifted to a May 20 domestic premiere date. In the meantime, be sure to check out our 2022 Movie Release Schedule so you can start planning your next trip to the theater.

Heidi Venable
Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.