Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016)


I suppose from experience you should know that, if you’ve been looking forward to a film for, well years, you will inevitably be disappointed by the result when it finally makes it to the big screen. Such is the case with Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. It’s not to say that there’s actually anything wrong with the cinematic version of Jennifer Saunders hit television sitcom – in fact it’s actually very funny in parts. However, neither is it a groundbreaking classic – like the original series – which will stand the test of time, and still be watchable twenty years after its initial release.

Mad fashionistas Eddy Monsoon (Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley), are up to their old tricks again. Having inadvertently killed the supermodel’s supermodel Kate Moss (played by herself), the inept twosome head to the South of France to not just avoid a lengthy jail sentence for murder, but also (being broke) to find a way of making some money, fast, with predictably chaotic results.

The real problem with Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is that encountered by most sitcoms which have tried the transition from small to big screen. These shows, by their very nature, are best suited to TV, where one story or situation is spread over twenty to twenty five minutes (allowing for advert breaks and whether the show originates from the UK or USA): come, gone and forgotten, a brief moment in the characters lives as they move each week through their daily business. The number of shows which have been hits on TV, but less than fabulous when they’ve tried the big move are countless: Man About The House, Dad’s Army and of course Sex and the City all lost something of their magic when magnified a hundred times bigger at the local multiplex. The same unfortunately has to be said for Saunders and Lumley’s big screen adventure – it’s undoubtedly fun (Eddy and Patsy are still the same anarchic hags) but it feels as though its lost some of its special allure in the transition.

One of the most disappointing aspects of the Absolutely Fabulous television series and now the film, is that so many cast members are now mainly remembered for it, yet did a lot of much better work before anyone had ever heard of the hapless Eddy and Patsy and their long-suffering friends and family: June Whitfield was much sharper alongside Terry Scott in the 70s TV classic Terry and June, whilst national treasure Joanna Lumley became iconic as everything from a Hammer scream queen and Bond girl to The New Avengers’ archetypal action-girl, Purdey. Now, as with many of the other cast members – both regulars and occasional supporters – it seems that they will always be ‘Ab Fabbers’, forever remembered as slightly smutty, potty mouthed women (and men) of a certain age who, instead of fading gracefully, went down bitching to the last.

What theme there is in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, seems there simply to allow an endless series of tattered celebrities prance across the screen for their brief moment in the limelight, an element of the film which in the end is its most enjoyable aspect. There are so many guest appearances by the greats of TV and film, that any interest in the tenuous storyline is quickly forgotten as the viewer gets caught up in a frantic game of spot the celeb. Some of the said names are good (Christopher Biggins), some are bad (any of the fashion models who pop up), some are brilliant whilst saying nothing (Rylan Clark-Neal), whilst others you really wish had said less (Kathy Burke)! Then you have Dame Joan Collins – the one woman in the world who, though seen for less than twenty seconds, obliterates everyone else in the blaze from her star wattage.

The film looks spectacular – like one long, glossy, pop video / fashion show – as Eddy and Patsy are whisked from the uber-posh enclaves of Kensington and London’s Docklands, to the playgrounds of the South of France, transporting the viewer – as well the down-on-their-luck duo – to worlds which most of us can only dream of. All of which may play in its favour. It’s well known that forms of entertainment, such as films, fare better in times of hardship. As a result the timing of Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie’s release may prove fortuitous, providing, as it does, some much needed escapism in these days of hyper doom and gloom in which we seem stuck at present.

Director: Mandie Fletcher
Writer: Jennifer Saunders
Stars: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, June Whitfield, Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks, Kate Moss
Runtime: 90 mins
Country: Uk / USA

Film Rating: ★★★☆☆

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