Turn-of-the-century English gentry targeted in The Missionary remains good for laughs, especially in the hands of the talented Michael Palin. But Palin’s script meanders wastefully across three separate story possibilities, never making full use of any of them.
As the Anglican title character called home to England, Palin has a brief encounter on the boat with Her Ladyship Maggie Smith who exhibits a keen interest in pagan fertility symbols. But the reverend’s mind is on marriage to his childhood sweetheart (Phoebe Nicholls), whose most romantic thoughts center on how well she has managed to file and crossfile his letters for 10 years.
Once in London, Palin is assigned by Bishop Denholm Elliott to start a slum mission for ‘fallen women’. And here comes Smith with the seed money Palin needs, provided he’s friendly in return since her married life with stuffy Trevor Howard is a bit empty.