Directed by Mandie Fletcher
Starring Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks and June Whitfield
Film Review by Jack Bottomley
It is with a great deal of apprehension that we approach any TV-to-Film adaptation. For every In The Loop there are many middling entries like Dad’s Army or dire efforts like Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie. It seems
that in making the transition to the big screen, especially for British sitcoms, so much can be lost in translation. So many, needless to say, were rightly worried about the long time in the making, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, the big screen outing for Jennifer Saunders’ glamorous and naughty sitcom. As it happens, you fans can just relax darlings because despite not being perfect, much like The Inbetweeners Movie (the first one that is), fans of the show will have an absolute ball with this feature film outing for the chain smoking, heavy drinking, fashionistas.
The plot sees partying PR guru Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) down on their luck a bit in the fashion industry, however opportunity knocks when supermodel Kate Moss needs new PR. Sadly all doesn’t quite go as plan, as in the fracas of the world’s biggest fashion event in London, Edina incidentally kills Kate Moss, leading to a media circus that forces Eddy and Patsy to go on the run. As evident from the plot outline, this long awaited screen debut for these iconic and glam TV characters is completely silly and self-depreciating but in this day and age of doom and gloom, these girls still bring the bubbly cheer.
The most surprising thing about the film is that, for its many faults, Saunders’ script really does bring the laughs. True not every joke lands but unlike this year’s Zoolander No. 2, the comments on the vane and ravenous fashion industry hit the mark and the jokes come at such a quick rate that you forget those gags that don’t work pretty quickly. In fact for a good chunk of the film’s duration, especially when the antics are set in London, the film veers nearer to an Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa vibe, whereby it feels organic and homegrown, as it tells a worthwhile story, while not overstretching the plot. However once the main celebrity death angle kicks in, the film falls into that atypical British Sitcom-to-film trap of going abroad. Sadly a lot of the plot gets dropped or forgotten in the process, as the film comes to feel kind of like a prolonged TV special. Complete with Kylie’s closing- and bloody loud- cover version of “This Wheels On Fire”.
This shift means that certain characters- Saffron’s (Julia Sawalha) Ugandan teenage daughter Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness) and Celia Imrie’s fashion PR star Claudia Bing for instance- become practically forgotten as the film features many moments of filler. Still, in spite of this, the laughter is remarkably constant and the whole drunken, excessively stylish and escapist adventure is a joyfully unpretentious and fun affair. This is mostly down to the pairing of Saunders and Lumley, who prove that cool has no age restriction, as they are game for any and every gag, whether it is cologne drinking, botox poking, bong smoking or many jabs (no pun intended) at their advancing years (not that we could tell!).
Saunders is as great as always as Edina but Lumley is predictably the best part of the film as the practically indestructible Patsy, whose selfish character is developed (with many LGBT themes being embraced by the film) and Lumley clearly loves all the style-based shenanigans. The original TV cast (Sawalha, June Whitfield, Jane Horrocks and more) all make appearances too and none look out of place. The film is lathered in cameos from some big names and some industry stars that, frankly, were a bit lost on us. It is a mixed bag with some fun cameos (Dawn French, Jeremy Paxman, Rebel Wilson, Jon Hamm, Barry Humphries, Chris Colfer) and some unimpactful ones (Rylan, Nick Grimshaw and the majority of the fashion crowd, y’know that lot.). Though the undeniable highlight has to be an appearance by the ever-brilliant Kathy Burke as foul mouthed and temperamental Magda, who deserved more screen time.
All in all Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is not sensible or flawless but that is to its charm and it carries much of what made the TV show work to the silver screen with it. True it loses the plot and certain characters likewise become unnecessary, as do certain scenes of lavish narrative padding but avid fans of the show will easily forgive such missteps and newbies will also be able to have an easygoing giggle at this surprisingly enjoyable adaptation. Let us be honest, we all expected a disaster here and thought perhaps they waited too long but despite any aforementioned faults, the script is funny and everyone still looks fabulous darling. Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is no Alpha Papa but it can certainly be called a successful outing for British TVs most fashionable pair, who bring plenty of laughs, energy and unexpected entertainment with them. Older but still fabulous…
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