Saturday, February 26, 2022

Miss Willoughby and the Haunted Bookshop: Movie Review

Old-fashioned and low-key, a British mystery.

Miss Willoughby and the Haunted Bookshop is, as you can probably guess from the title, an old-fashioned and juvenile mystery. A family-friendly mystery meant for … kids? Except probably not, with a cast full of adults, a potential murder on their hands and an English country-side setting straight out of classic novels, it’s more like a Miss Marple mystery to be solved by the Scooby Doo gang.   2021

Directed by: Brad Watson

Screenplay by: Josh Ridgway, Kate Wood

Starring: Nathalie Cox, Kelsey Grammer

For those who like their mysteries with less bite and more drawn-out non-mystery drama. I think it took half the movie for the mystery to even develop, and then when the plot revealed itself, it really isn’t for kids after all. Old-fashioned and slow has its charms, and that low-key British angle is clearly what it’s going for, it just feels dumbed-down at times and mis-matched at other times.

It’s set in approximate current times, 2021 less the pandemic, but you would be forgiven if you didn’t identify the correct century. Miss Willoughby, a young child in 1996, attending her father’s funeral. He was an armed services vet who died in who knows what war – the Afghan Civil War? The American Revolutionary War? It’s hard to tell since she goes back to her old castle-like estate to be raised alone by the Butler. His name is Robert, he’s played by Kelsey Grammer, and he’s her father’s friend who worked for the Estate, one of those old British money positions which I swear doesn’t exist now, but he has a smart phone, so that’s where we’re at.

Her friend calls her. She’s being haunted. But since our heroine isn’t a crazy person, she investigates to get to the cause of what’s causing the unexplained phenomenon. Personally, I think the Scooby Doo gang would have had a lot more fun and probably find a ghost. But Miss Willoughby does things a little slower and less chaotically. Eventually the ghost mystery turns into a real crime to solve, a good thing for all the viewers who stuck with it.

Miss Willoughby and the Haunted Bookshop is not as much fun as it could be, very staid and low-key, but it’s a simple story with a pleasant cast and pleasant setting, leaning as far into the old-fashioned charms as possible. I’m sure the movie knows its audience, but they might be hard to find. For the rest of us, it’s silly without the silliness.