By Brad Haynes
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
★1/2 out of ★★★★
Originally airing on televison in 1992, Absolutely Fabulous became a cult hit in both the UK and the US as an over-the-top sitcom. Replete with laugh track, the ongoing adventures of the “absolutely fabulous” (at least in their own minds) Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) weren’t for everyone. They drugged and drank their way through the London fashion scene, desperately struggling to maintain their youth, while constantly being judged by the harsh eye of Eddy’s “too-mature-for-her-years” daughter Saffron (Julia Sawalha). And then there was Eddy’s dotty mum (June Whitfield) and ditzy assistant Bubble (Jane Horrocks) thrown into the mix.
Now, more than 20 years later, the pair have found their way onto the big screen with little missing except the laugh track. The drugs, the booze, and the outlandish situations are all there, as well as the majority of the cast. Even PR maven Eddy’s celebrity clients from the series such as Lulu and Spice Girl Emma (Baby Spice) Bunton are back for the film. But the big celeb catch in the movie is Kate Moss, who is looking for new representation. Headed toward financial ruin, Eddy decides that providing PR for Moss will save her so she sets out to make that happen. Unfortunately Eddy goes slightly overboard (or rather, Moss does) during the meeting between the delusional grande dame of PR and the super model. Moss goes missing (is she dead???) and Edina and Patsy go on the run to the south of France, certain that they have killed Kate Moss.
While on the lam, the pair run into Lubliana (the wealthiest woman in the world played by Marcia Warren) and come up with a cross-dressing plot (reminiscent of Some Like It Hot) to get in on her riches.
Enjoyment of Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie will surely depend highly upon your fondness for the original series. This reviewer, for one, was never a fan, and feel quite the same about the film. The jokes often fall flat (is using fetus blood as a way to stay young really all that funny???) and the excessive drugging, smoking and boozing simply feel dated. And while the girls are now fiddling with smart phones, it wouldn’t take much for the phones to be smarter than the comedy here.
The film is full of cameos, some fairly lengthy and others barely a blip of screen time. Some appear as themselves, others appear as characters. With some there seems to be little reason for their appearance other than to have their face on screen. This goes for Game of Thrones‘ Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth) and Joan Collins, who both appear as themselves but are given little to do. The same for Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm. Several others though, such as Rebel Wilson as a sassy flight attendant not about to put up with Patsy, and Australian comic Barry Humphries as an elderly swinger, have some funny scenes. And the appearance of Humphries’ alter ego Dame Edna makes for a neat sight gag as well.
As far as the leads go, both Saunders and Lumley inhabit the characters as if they never left them. And the fact that Lumley is now 70-years-old is truly hard to believe. They’re both quite good, in fact, much better than the material (which happens to be written by Saunders) they are working with.
It’s hard to imagine that anyone who has not already found themselves to be a fan of the Ab Fab duo will be interested in the film, but the weekend’s stateside box office will be the truest gauge of that. More than likely, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie will find it’s way onto streaming services in no time at all.
The Good: Saunders and Lumley both inhabit the characters as if they’d never left them and the film will most likely be a true treat to loyal fans of the original series.
The Bad: Much of the humor seems extremely dated, many of the jokes not funny, and many of the more than twenty celebrity cameos seem to be wasted opportunities.
Final Word: It seems a little late for Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie to make the transition from the small to big screen but they give it their all. Enjoyment of the film will most likely rely on familiarity with and love for the original series. If that’s not there, it’s unlikely Eddy and Pats will be making many new fans.
Starring Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Jane Horrocks, Julia Sawalha. Directed by Mandie Fletcher.
Running Time: 90 minutes
Rated R for language including sexual references, and some drug use.