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Originally published Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 3:06 PM

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‘Austenland’: a pale replica of a literary romantic comedy

A review of the wan comedy “Austenland.”

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 2 stars

‘Austenland,’ with Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Bret McKenzie, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Seymour. Directed by Jerusha Hess, from a screenplay by Hess and Shannon Hale, based on the novel by Hale. 97 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and innuendo. Several theaters.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged, or it should be, that merely invoking the hallowed name of Jane Austen does not a comedy make. Such is the case with Jerusha Hess’ “Austenland,” a wan comedy aimed squarely at whoever it is who buys all those “Austen-inspired” books cluttering up the publishing world.

Keri Russell plays Jane, a 30-something American single woman obsessed with Jane Austen to the extent that you wonder what’s wrong with her. (She’s got a life-size cardboard cutout of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in her bedroom, for heaven’s sake.) Because this is a movie, Jane decides to spend her life savings on a trip to England for a stay at a sort of Jane Austen theme park, where paying guests dress in costume, assume a Regency-era identity and are romanced by an assortment of Austen-ish male characters.

This is sure to end well, right? Of course it does, after a lot of nonsense involving Jennifer Coolidge’s cleavage, a very fast horse birth, an excruciatingly dull performance of a play (it’s as if time stops), Jane Seymour holding a lamb, and a waste of the puppylike appeal of Bret McKenzie (of “Flight of the Conchords”) as a costumed suitor. Jane, played by Russell with enthusiasm but little wit, eventually figures out that she wants something real; pity she didn’t come to that conclusion a little earlier. “Austenland” is silliness without charm; something the real Miss Austen would never countenance.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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