Victoria and Abdul

Rated 2.0

Stephen Frears' mealy biopic Victoria and Abdul opens with a title card stating that it is “Based on a True Story … Mostly,” a sure sign that the film will be terrible. It opens in India in 1887, where a prison clerk named Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) gets tasked with traveling to England and delivering a ceremonial coin to Queen Victoria (Judi Dench). When Victoria takes a liking to the handsome and charming Abdul, his stay gets extended indefinitely, scandalizing the palace workers. Dench is as relentless as the clown from It, and she keeps the toothless one-liners coming: when Karim complains about his scratchy Scottish garb, Victoria replies, “Everything in Scotland is scratchy.” Take that, wool! Unfortunately, Frears can't figure out what to do with Abdul, as the film chalks his dewy-eyed devotion up to an uncomplicated love of service. It's sort of like Driving Miss Daisy, only way more racist. D.B.