UK Release Date: 1st July 2016
Runtime: 91 minutes
Director: Mandie Fletcher
Writer: Jennifer Saunders
Starring: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, June Whitfield, Jane Horrocks, Celia Imrie, Robert Webb, Chris Colfer
Synopsis: Edina and Patsy have hit upon hard times, which only get harder when the pair are forced to go on the run when fashion model Kate Moss ends up missing after falling into the River Thames.
The original television run of Absolutely Fabulous was hugely popular throughout the 1990s, showcasing the self-destructive lives of Jennifer Saunders‘ hapless PR and a magazine editor played by Joanna Lumley. The show was briefly revived a few years ago, but has now followed The Inbetweeners, Keith Lemon and even Harry Hill in making the jump to the big screen. It has received pretty strong reviews from critics but, in reality, it’s an unfunny mess cluttered with perfunctory and irritating cameos from Z-list celebrities desperate for a slice of the Hollywood pie.
Edina (Saunders) is without any clients and running out of money, relying on her daughter Saffron (Julia Sawalha) and assistant Bubble (Jane Horrocks). She learns one day from Patsy (Lumley) that Kate Moss is seeking a new PR agent and will be at a party that night. Edina tries to get to Moss before her rival Claudia (Celia Imrie) does so and the model ends up falling into the Thames. When Moss doesn’t resurface, Edina and Patsy go on the run to the south of France in order to evade the police.
I fully acknowledge that I could not be further from the target audience for Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. It’s not a movie geared towards men in their early 20s and, as a result, its appeal completely passed me by. For me, the jokes didn’t land, the characters were simply irritating and the parade of celebrity cameos simply felt like a way of filling time in lieu of a storyline that justified expanding the traditional format to feature length. Like Zoolander 2, this film finds it far easier to yell the name of a celebrity and point in their general direction than to actually construct a punchline.
These cameos are made all the worse by the fact that these celebrities are entirely wooden and incapable of being convincing, even as themselves, Kate Moss is absolutely awful and the constant appearances of faces from the fashion world become wearying very quickly. Even Saunders and Lumley, though committed to their performances and characters, come across as relatively uninspired as they execute the same old tired punchlines about ageing and basic slapstick that never really manages to raise a laugh. For those who were big fans of the TV show, the shtick alone may be enough to carry this through but, without the benefit of the nostalgia, there’s nothing there.
Like many of the recent British sitcom to big screen transfers, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie reaches for sentimentality and heart in its third act. After half an hour of watching the characters amble through the south of France wearing fancy clothes and drinking endless quantities of champagne, it’s really tough to care about what seems to think it’s a poignant emotional finale for a movie that never bothers to do anything interesting with its characters. It simply allows them to slot into their pre-defined roles.
Despite its myriad problems, the biggest crime of Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is its startling lack of creativity. The tried-and-tested formula of moving the characters abroad for a big screen outing is present and correct and the consistent reliance on cameos can only be a disappointment for anyone who isn’t intimately familiar with pages of Heat magazine. As a scrappy sitcom, these characters’ obsession with celebrity culture works as a gag but, on the silver screen, it comes across as reaching for a taste of Tinseltown glamour that the film does not deserve.
Pop or Poop?
For those within its target audience, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie might well be exactly what the doctor ordered. However, I found it a dismally uninteresting trudge through the dregs of British celebrity that was the equivalent of watching every episode of a series of Celebrity Big Brother on fast forward.
The performances do nothing to enliven the material and the plotting doesn’t so much play it safe as look at all of the possible creative risks and then run directly away from them in favour of pointing the camera at Nick Grimshaw again.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.