‘Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie’ Too Thin to be Completely Winning

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CHICAGO – As far as TV shows that fans wish could be movies, the cult hit “Absolutely Fabulous” was high on the list. The adventures of Patsy and Edina, two middle age Brits with an appetite for self medication, has had a dedicated following since it premiered in 1992. Even though there were six full TV seasons, and various reunions, “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie” has emerged.

Although series creator (and portrayer of Edina) Jennifer Saunders wrote the screenplay, the film suffered with a not-quite-enough storyline that made 90 minutes seem longer. However, there are some magic and bizarrely funny moments in the film, even though the substance-abusing duo are getting a bit long in the tooth to keep the characters viable. But this is “Ab-Fab,” and viability is not really high on the radar, darling. For fans of the show, this is welcome fun, and for those not as familiar, caveat emptor.

Edina (Jennifer Saunders) is a high powered publicist in London who supports a large crew of family and hangers-on, including her daughter Saffron (Julia Sawalha), her mother (June Whitfield) and nutty best friend Patsy (Joanna Lumley). Her fortune is running low, however, and her ex-husband is about to foreclose on her house. She needs a new high profile client.

They’re Back! Edina (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) in “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie”
Photo credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Acting on a tip, she attends an opening that features the supermodel Kate Moss. While approaching her prey, she accidentally knocks Moss off a ledge and into the Thames River. Patsy and Edina are now wanted fugitives for the murder of the model, and go on the lam in search of new fortunes – while imbibing tons of liquor and whatever else will give them an even temperament. 

The whole kick of “Ab-Fab” were the two leading ladies, and how the world reacted to them. Edina’s put upon and more serious daughter Saffy is still tut-tutting the duo, and their cast of strange rivals and helpers, which include the hilarious Bubbles (Jane Horrocks) are always there to lend a laugh. The film also has the kick and rhythm of the 1960s “Swingin’ London” movies, with the weird touches like people constantly washing up to shore.

The comedy team that portray Patsy and Edina, Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders, are game for anything in this surreal story, but also give the impression that they’re trying too hard. This is a “film,” as opposed to television, and what often happens in making the transition – as what happened to the wretched “Entourage” last year – is that the atmosphere feels tighter. The loose improvisation style of the TV show is lost to the “plot,” which needed to be conveniently forgotten. Patsy and Edina don’t need no stinking plot.

Screenwriter Saunders was also trying to make a point about Britain’s obsession with celebrity culture. There are constant pokes at the overindulgent coverage of Kate Moss’s demise, complete with a large group of paparazzi outside Edina’s flat. The critique is a bit obvious, and keeps going after the point has been made. It distracts from the main adventures of the duo.

Singer Lulu (left) and Bubbles (Jane Horrocks) in “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie”
Photo credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

The film is padded with some good cameos, including Jon Hamm, who knocks it out of the park. Hamm does a great job of playing against his handsome man type, and he has a killer scene with Patsy. The singer Lulu is almost as vital in the film as the Ab-Fab duo, and deftly handles the comedy. Kate Moss is rather odd in her screen persona, and has certainly gone past the I-care-what-I-look-like phase. It’s the bits and pieces of the movie that work, but the blend often works against these tidbits, especially when adding stuff like a wacky vehicle chase.

Patsy and Edina were always the antidote to the uptight yuppie 1990s, and the obsession with sobriety as an “image.” They were beloved for not giving a damn, but floating through their hazy lives with a group of fellow weirdos that had their backs. Their sweetie fans will be having champagne reunions all weekend.

“Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie” opens nationwide on July 22nd. See local listings for theaters and show times. Featuring Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks, Mo Gaffney, Chris Colfer, Lulu, Kate Moss and Jon Hamm. Screenplay by Jennifer Saunders. Directed by Mandie Fletcher. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2016 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

Jim Chapman's picture

Mindless, Wonderful, Fun

Saw the movie over the weekend and it was great. It was a continuation of the show we loved in the 90’s, with an added bonus of mocking pop culture…and its importance. It was like seeing old friends again and wishing that you had never lost them.

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