By Chaz Lipp
Full disclosure: I’ve never seen an episode of the TV series Absolutely Fabulous, the BBC production that enjoyed phenomenal popularity throughout the ’90s, early ’00s, and more recently in several revival specials. How does the new feature film adaptation Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie play to someone without prior knowledge of PR mavens Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley)? It’s breezily funny at times, but the story is too thin to sustain even the brisk 90-minute runtime.
With only two significant clients in her stable, singers Lulu and Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton (both on hand as themselves), Eddy’s PR firm badly needs fresh blood. When Kate Moss suddenly becomes a PR free agent, Eddy believes the supermodel can save her business. But after she accidentally knocks Moss into the River Thames at a party, she winds up becoming a pariah in the fashion industry. “Do you know what a pariah is?” asks Eddy’s daughter, Saffy (Julia Sawalha). “Yes, a fish” is Eddy’s clueless reply. That type of humor is what keeps the Ab Fab film giggle-worthy. But the farcical elements that dominate as Eddy and Patsy try to escape criminal charges over the Kate Moss assault (she’s missing and presumed dead) become tiresome.
Of course, fashion fans and those well-steeped in UK media culture in general will have fun with the abundant cameos. Some are more recognizable to laymen than others (including Stella McCartney and Jerry Hall), but the film never really gets so ‘inside’ as to alienate any viewers. Longtime series fans will get a bigger kick out of returning series regulars like Sawalha and Eddy’s assistant Bubble (Jane Horrocks). who also goes missing after Eddy and Patsy set her adrift on the Thames in search of Moss. But the whole “Kate Moss is dead and Edina Monsoon is the murderer” routine stops being funny long before the “mystery” is solved (and don’t expect much narrative invention in Jennifer Saunders’ screenplay when it comes to resolving the missing model).
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Images: Fox Searchlight Pictures