Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
Cert: 15 / 91 mins / Dir. Mandie Fletcher / Trailer
And with the first breaths of Summer comes the first of the UK TV Sitcom adaptations (a spin-off from The Office lands next month), in what appears to be an annual push to make the small screen big. The long-mooted revival of Absolutely Fabulous certainly has the cast-list and the enthusiastic fan-base*1 to be a contender, but can it live up to its own titular premise..?
The screenplay opts for the tried and tested Holiday On The Buses*2 format, having the central characters Patsy and Edina flee to the south of France in a bid to escape negative press-attention after seemingly having killed Kate Moss. If the premise sounds a little flimsy, it's supported by solid humour (both scripted and visual), and the approach to celebrity-cameos that Rambo takes to backup ammunition. Playing spot-the-star is a lot of fun at first, but really stars to wear thin by the halfway-point in the film. On the plus side though everyone's enjoying their 15 seconds of fame, which counts for a lot, and you can tell that there was a queue of people wanting to appear, rather than a queue of favours waiting to be called in.
In the spirit of the TV series, AbFab does what it does well and revels in its own silliness. Saunders and Lumley are on fantastic form, and the first half hour is the most enjoyable when the pair are in their element on home-turf. Other TV-cast regulars show willing but are sidelined a little (although that's very much the nature of the characters anyway). As is par for the course with these things, the story itself is almost a bit of an afterthought, but that's always the way when you're adapting from thirty-minute TV shows. And when that narrative begins to creak, it's difficult to coast on charm when your party-trick is being professionally gauche.
More of a collection of set-pieces and running gags than a story-proper (although this applies to most comedy movies these days, to be fair), Jennifer Saunders' screenplay doesn't necessarily expand on any existing story-canon, and in the end it doesn't really feel like it's added anything unique to what's come before. In fact, you can almost hear the penny drop at around 82 minutes where the realisation that everything needs to be tied up sharpish really hits home. But it's easy to watch, consistently funny and never too mean-spirited, so this transition already fares better than others in its class (AbFab's spiritual sibling Bottom being a prime example).
While it's not going to win any awards nor make new fans, Absolutely Fabulous is very entertaining. Perhaps even more superficial than it intends to be, but saved by embracing its own preposterousness rather than fighting it.
Although, y'know. It's not a film.
In terms of comedy, just about any Sumer Brit-com of the last five years, even though this is actually better than the vast majority of them.
For the communal laughter, sure.
It sets its own bar low, and it clears it with ease.
Not best exactly, but reliably competent.
Level 1: This film's got Celia 'Bravo 5' Imrie in it. And Gwendoline 'Phasma' Christie.
*1 The good news is that Friday night is movie night and Screen 1 was packed. Although it was mostly made up of a civilian audience. That doesn't matter to the accounting department of course (and nor should it), but the two patrons occupying our seats when we arrived knew emphatically (if cheerfully) that they were in G15 and G16, despite evidently not being able to read the numbers G11 and G12 on the seats they were actually in. Sent those fuckers packing, mind (again, cheerfully). You don't start that shit in my local, I don't care how many stamps you've got on your Lambrini gold-card…
*2 Essentially where the characters from an established TV sitcom find themselves, for their cinematic adaptation, travelling to a more exotic location, often the coast or seaside and often by the narrative means of going on a holiday. In the past it was the aforementioned Holiday On The Buses and Are You Being Served, lately it's been Bad Education and The Intbetweeners (twice). As structures go, it's as lazy as it is reliable, ironically forcing the writers to work even harder to keep things moving. Well, it's supposed to...
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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