Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (15)
Running time 1hr 30min
LISTENING to an audience leaving the cinema can often be telling. “What’s the verdict?” says one woman to a friend after a showing of Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. There’s a pause before the friend says: “Well, it was just the usual
silliness and outrageous antics.” Another friend chimes in: “I never really liked the TV show…”
Well, maybe it’s not for you then, I think – but then perhaps it’s not for fans either, since their reactions do give you a good idea of how this film is generally being received by audiences. There’s more of the kind of stuff you’d expect from the long-running television programme but it’s on a larger, and less successful, scale. The plot has typically been inflated to fit movie proportions. Consequently, it’s convoluted, and detracts from the quality of the end result and Jennifer Saunders’ ability to strike comedy gold with her self-penned script.
The story revolves around Saunders’ Edina Monsoon and her attempts to sign Kate Moss to her failing PR agency; she’s only got Emma Bunton and Lulu as celebrity clients and she’s not doing a great job of looking after either of them. Previously
dependent on her ex-husband’s money to keep her afloat, when this source of income suddenly dries up, desperation sets in.
This all leads to an incident at a party where Edina knocks the British supermodel into the River Thames. She’s accused of pushing Moss, who’s feared dead, and is arrested. Awaiting a hearing, she and Patsy conspire to flee the country and take Saffy’s (Julia Sawalha) daughter Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness) with them to finance the escape – she’s in possession of credit cards given to her by her absent father.
Arriving in Cannes, they attempt to make contact with a rich ex of Patsy’s (played by Barry Humphries). Meanwhile, Saffy has launched a rescue mission, and heads off in search of her daughter – and her mother. But will Edina return to the UK for the hearing? And with no body, can she even be prosecuted?
It’s not just the complicated plot that hampers this film version of the popular series. It’s stuffed with so many cameos you find yourself constantly yanked out of the story – not only because you’re celeb-spotting but also because a fair proportion of them are given speaking roles, giving them ample opportunity to showcase their woeful acting skills.
There are around 60 cameo appearances from famous faces in fashion and entertainment in all – including some you wouldn’t expect. When Jeremy Paxman and Kirsty Wark crop up, you wonder how on earth producers managed to persuade these two serious broadcasters to feature. You’ll also find some of Britain’s top names in modelling, including Lily Cole, Suki Waterhouse, Lara Stone, Jourdann Dunn, Alexa Chung and Daisy Lowe, as well as designers Stella McCartney, Jean Paul Gaultier and Giles Deacon.
It’s not all bad, though. There’s a handful of titter-raising moments, usually arising from the more low-key sequences rather than the more outlandish set-ups, and Jane Horrocks and Joanna Lumley are dependably funny. Lumley was always the best thing about Ab Fab, totally inhabiting the character and bringing an unspoken depth to Patsy that’s lacking in Edina. Patsy is both tragic, and hilarious. And she’d be so much fun on a night out.