‘Austenland’ had makings of a fun ride

From left: Georgia King, James Callis, Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie, and Keri Russell in a scene from Jerusha Hess’s “Austenland.”
From left: Georgia King, James Callis, Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie, and Keri Russell in a scene from Jerusha Hess’s “Austenland.”Credit: Photos by Giles Keyte/Sony Pictures Classics

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Austenland

There’s a great satirical idea in “Austenland,” a comedy about a lovelorn “Pride and Prejudice” fanatic (Keri Russell) who flees to a Jane Austen theme park. Sadly, that idea has the cleverness beaten out of it by Jerusha Hess, making a cartoonish and unfunny directorial debut after co-writing “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Nacho Libre,” two films that are to Austen as Taco Bell is to spatchcocked quail.

“Austenland” displays a near-fatal disconnect between its subject (wit) and its style (witless), even if Jennifer Coolidge as a tacky fellow tourist is so cringe-inducing that you end up laughing by default. Hess has made a classic rookie mistake: Any spoof has to be at least as smart as the thing it’s spoofing, and this one’s twice as dumb.

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