I was very disappointed in Unleashing Mr. Darcy. It was nothing like Hercules Unchained (1959) and it’s not based on the recently restored version of Jane Austen’s classic about prejudice against the undead. Instead the movie has a Hallmark Christian Grey, a woman who doesn’t seem to know how schools or dogs work, and overall is a film that could have been condensed into something shorter.
The movie begins in a classroom and we meet a teacher named Elizabeth Scott (Cindy Busby). After assigning the students their homework and dismissing class, she is approached by a parent who doesn’t like that she isn’t letting his son pass so he can play sports. You know, the standard stuff. However, I believe this is the first time I have seen the parent actually whip out cash and try to pay off the teacher on the spot.
Of course she turns down the money and he throws a hissy fit before storming off.
We go home with Elizabeth and find that she owns a cocker spaniel. I don’t recall if it’s now or later, but she will actually say that one of the things she likes about dogs is that they don’t manipulate you. I get the feeling screenwriter Teena Booth has never owned a dog in her life. I have owned dogs all my life and if there is one thing they are masters of, it’s manipulating you. If they want something from you then they will make sure you are going to give it to them. I mean where do you think the phrase “puppy dog eyes” comes from. Minor thing, but being a lifelong dog owner, I found it very funny.
Now Elizabeth goes to pay a visit to her sister Jenna played by Tammy Gillis who is looking good after being rescued by The Postables in Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Impossible Dream. She takes her cocker along with her. Little personal side note. My first dog was a Cocker Spaniel named Jenny. That was 6 dogs ago so it’s been awhile. Despite having their fair share of flaws, dogs really are wonderful.
When I review Hallmark movies I often point out goofs or the interesting ways they fake computers and cellphones. I could mention that the shot on the iPad she now uses is very likely just a screenshot they took on a computer and imported onto the iPad, but that’s not what is notable here to me.
I wanna know what happened to this poor iPad. Look at that home button all turned at a weird angle. This thing looks like it took a brutal beating before being used in the movie. I would love to know the story behind this.
Anyways, the process to let her go from the school begins. She seems genuinely surprised that the school would automatically side with the father and the mother who is on the school board. This is what I meant when I said she doesn’t seem to know how schools work. I remember when a friend of mine’s son got in trouble because apparently his school project looked too phallic to them. She shouldn’t have been shocked at all that she was going to be let go. Of course it works out for the best because she now gets to take her dog to a dog show.
This is as good a time as any to point out that actress Cindy Busby might just be able to give Rachel Boston a run for her money in the funny facial expressions department on Hallmark.
Can we see Mr. Darcy (Ryan Paevey) now?
Actor Ryan Paevey really is a high point of this film. Seriously, the best comparison, in recent memory, I can make is to the character of Christian Grey from Fifty Shades Of Grey (2015). Just without the dark past and he doesn’t attach women to leashes and then judge them or anything. He’s rich and judges dogs. He is slightly aloof, but never really off putting. Confident, but not full of himself. He’s also quite attractive. He still feels like a real person though. Long story shot, I think Ryan Paevey did a really good job with the character.
She now is officially let go by the school and accusations that she tried to bribe the guy have even been raised. Now she decides to move to New York City to take up a job offer to be a handler in dog shows. Of course not to be outdone by Busby, Paevey shows that he too can make interesting faces.
She runs into him almost instantly when she steps out of the cab and we meet his dog.
In short order she is swept up into this upper crust family. She actually finds allies on almost every side except from the aunt and the woman she wants her nephew to marry.
I’m just going to refer to them as Prejudice and Prejudice, Jr. We also meet his kid sister named Zara who is played by Sarah Desjardins.
She’s grown since I saw her in Kiss At Pine Lake. She is an ally too and we will find out that after he and his sister lost their parents, he took care of her.
What follows is the typical story of a normal person introduced into a rich family who has already had plans for one of the younger family members. It plays out in the papers too.
And yes, the filler text they put in is still humorous to look at.
We keep getting to know Mr. Darcy better and she moves closer and closer to him. He’s very much his own man despite what Prejudice and Prejudice, Jr. would like to believe. In the end, it comes down to a party. The evil ones make a scene so he kisses her on the spot to make sure she, and those two understand where his feelings lie. Even Elizabeth’s sister notices that the kiss wasn’t just to brush off Prejudice and Prejudice, Jr.
This is when the movie takes an odd turn. Instead of her getting that, she seems to think she was just used. Then her sister overhears Mr. Darcy talking to a male member of the family. This is what they say.
Henry: Donny, I gotta tell you, that kiss that you laid on Jenna’s sister, that was the highlight of the night, my friend.
Mr. Darcy: Oh, the kiss…the kiss was to…the kiss was to shut Aunt Violet up.
Henry: The kiss was because you like the girl.
Mr. Darcy: Why would I like Elizabeth
Henry: [chuckling] Oh, why?
Mr. Darcy: Why would I like Elizabeth Scott? She’s over proud.
Mr. Darcy: and crass
Henry: intelligent, kills it in a ball gown. Brings you trophies, all those kinds of things.
Mr. Darcy: Yeah, yeah, all those—
Henry: You are absolutely fascinated by her, that’s a fact.
Mr. Darcy: [laughs]
Henry: Admit it.
Mr. Darcy: Mmm-hmm
The whole conversation is said with Henry speaking in a tone that says you know you like her, just admit it already.
Now the sister runs back to Elizabeth and has just flipped out. Elizabeth immediately flips out too and storms off in a cab. She tells him to not pretend Jenna misunderstood him even though it’s clear as day to anyone who isn’t nuts that she did. He then says he said some unflattering things. When? He tells her right out his feelings for her, but since he says “I’ve decided we belong together” that some how is even more reason to act like a nut job saying “you don’t get to decide who I belong with!” She will even tell her friend he had the nerve to tell her he’s in love with her. Oh, dear God! To give you an idea how crazy this all plays out, take a look at the beginning of The Cinema Snob review of My Baby Is Black! (1961) where he shows the trailer.
I know that Hallmark loves a last minute romantic speed bump, but this is ridiculous and baseless.
She gets an offer to come back and teach because they figured out the accusations were ridiculous and disproven when Mr. Darcy put some pressure on the people driving her out of a job. She turns them down, as she should. She quickly comes around, and they kiss at a dog show while the dog stares right into the camera.
You may or may not have noticed my review was somewhat sparse. It’s not just that I don’t feel well, but that the movie feels like that. It could have been tightened up into something shorter. It always seems to be under the impression that there is a grander plot line playing out with richer characters than are actually presented onscreen. Honestly, I don’t think I can recommend this one. It’s an okay 90 minutes or so, but it really isn’t worth your time.