Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie – campy hit-and-miss nonsense for fans

This review originally appeared at TheMovies.co.za.

Long before there were Bridesmaids and Bad Moms, there were two misbehaving, middle-aged Englishwomen always ready for a good time. Never mind that their clumsy, drunken debauchery turned them into social pariahs. If there was bolly to be downed, ciggies to be smoked, ridiculous fashion to be worn and celebrities to be schmoozed, that’s where you’d find Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley).

Well, twenty-four years since the world was first introduced to best friends Eddy and Pats, nothing’s changed. Seriously, nothing. Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, the first feature film centred on this badly behaving duo, feels exactly like an extended version of the cult TV comedy that started it all. Except with a considerably bigger budget and considerably more celebrity cameos.

So if you enjoyed the series, you’ll thoroughly enjoy Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. If you didn’t, you’re not going to be converted. And if you’ve never had any exposure before to our self-absorbed heroines, know that it’s 90 minutes of campy hit-and-miss nonsense made with its flamboyant fan base in mind.

You may receive that impression from the plot alone. After years of living the high life, Eddy’s fortunes are waning. To bolster her PR business she needs a high profile new client, but her attempt to woo Kate Moss at a Fashion Week party leads to disaster. The iconic supermodel plunges into the Thames, Eddy is accused of her murder, and she and Patsy flee to the south of France with a plan to live off geriatric billionaires. Even if that requires a bit of gender bending.

And that’s about it, really. Although the characters experience epiphanies about themselves, real change is impossible. Just as with the series, twists of fate allow Eddy and Patsy to get away with their usual shenanigans for the most part, while plot points raised around the supporting cast – like Eddy’s long-suffering daughter Saffie (Julia Sawalha) – are left dangling. Presumably for the next movie or TV special.

Still, for fans there’s something of a nostalgic kick to seeing pretty much everyone back. Jane Horrocks as ditzy assistant Bubble remains a delight, and her fashion sense is as laughably ludicrous as ever.

Making the film a bit more fun for non-fans, meanwhile, are the dozens of cameo appearances; a reported 60+. Many figures are from the fashion world admittedly – and may be a bit harder to place for non-industry observers – but plenty of actors pop up as well. Highlights include Jon Hamm as himself, having to grudgingly admit he lost his virginity to Patsy in his youth. Meanwhile, the funniest scene in the entire film has Rebel Wilson appearing as an unashamedly rude air hostess on a budget airline. Her job title “DNB” could take hold in South Africa certainly.

As already mentioned, some of the jokes score the bullseye while others miss the mark. The comedy seems to be strongest in the middle portion, before silly escape action becomes the focus. Also, and this is the same complaint that can be levelled at Seth MacFarlane across the Atlantic, there is a sense of padding beyond the halfway point. Granted Absolutely Fabulous is known for its gay male following, but an extended music number in a drag club feels shoehorned into the narrative.

Fortunately Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie gets enough right to be worthwhile for fans. Or at least those fans undeterred by the prospect of paying full ticket price for something so inconsequential. Franchise outsiders, meanwhile, are likely to be lost for the most part, and receive much less enjoyment from proceedings.

3 stars out of 5.


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