Gloria is a woman struggling to cope. Her teenage daughter’s a nymphomaniac, her young son’s the perennial target for the local bullies, and her marriage to Walter has long-since dwindled into monotony. It’s no wonder she’s failing to resist the advances of her handsome, American lothario of a golf pro, Lance. What this family needs is salvation. And fast. It comes in the form of Grace Hawkins, a gentle motherly woman with a smile for everyone and an answer for everything. But Grace is not all she seems"¦

...the comic timing is askew, making scenes that should have been hilarious, awkward.

Dame Maggie Smith dons an apron and a lethal glare in the new British comedy, Keeping Mum , which also stars Rowan Atkinson and Kristin Scott Thomas. The script, by Richard Russo, was originally set in America, but Director Niall Johnson (the screenwriter of the recent Michael Keaton film, White Noise), adapted it for the fictional town of Little Wallop in the UK.

Atkinson plays the slightly bumbling Vicar Goodfellow, who\'s so distracted by his Godly work - trying to write the perfect sermon, that he doesn\'t notice his son is being bullied at school, that his 17 year old daughter has a constant stream of boyfriends, or that wife Gloria (Scott Thomas) is fed up and craving steamy affection. Something that Patrick Swayze - as her over tanned and sleazy golf instructor, Lance, is happy to provide. The family is in trouble, but their problems seem to miraculously smooth out when Dame Maggie Smith enters the picture as their new, rather dubious housekeeper, Grace Hawkins.

This is an odd farce that\'s sparked some debate amongst critics in the UK about the dire state of British comedy. I don\'t think Keeping Mum , is that disastrous, just inconsistent and the script doesn\'t break any new ground. We discover too soon that the new housekeeper is a murdering Nanny and a little bit of suspense would have gone a long way. Plus the humour, which is basically centred on the quirky aspects of English culture, is too apprehensive and the blend of feel good family film with farcical black comedy doesn\'t gel. But the main problem is direction and pace.

The talented cast have some great moments, especially the wonderful Maggie Smith, Swayze and the engaging Kristin Scott Thomas, but the comic timing is askew, making scenes that should have been hilarious, awkward. A good example is one scene, where Lance reveals what\'s under his pants to Gloria. Wearing undies that would make any woman\'s skin crawl. It\'s funny on paper, but the result is embarrassing. And you might be also disappointed that Rowan Atkinson\'s bumbling Vicar routine - is more forgetful than bumbling, as he plays it much straighter than you would expect. However Keeping Mum , still raised quite a few chuckles from me - because there is nothing funnier than seeing a nice old dame like Maggie Smith - going homicidal on a dirty dancer like Swayze.