Alternative Title: Reasonably Fabulous
Ab Fab first aired on the BBC in 1992 (ha, I’m the same age as the show!) until 1995, then show the show aired sporadically as series or special until 2012. Four years on, our ever-glamourous and self-indulgent duo has made it onto the big screen. Has the film broken to the small to big screen curse? Sort of. Whilst it’s no Bad Education movie (click here for review) it still doesn’t shake off the feeling this is little more than a bloated and extended episode.
Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) are still living the life of luxury, though the money is beginning to run out. Edina’s PR company is failing and her rival, Claudia Bing (Celia Imrie), is taking all the glory. Edina is in need of a miracle and one does arrive – Kate Moss is just fired her PR and is need of a replacement. The wooing of Kate goes wrong however, when Edina manages to push Kate Moss into the Thames. Kate is presumed dead and Edina becomes Britain’s enemy no.1, deciding escape is her only option she flees to France ,in the hope of finding fortune, taking granddaughter Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness) and Patsy with her. The police are on the hunt, as are Edina’s daughter Saffron (Julia Sawalha) and new boyfriend Nick (Robert Webb).
For fans of the show this film will either fill the void or slightly disappoint. Everything you loved about the tv series is present and correct – the humour and the characters are just how you remembered them. For those who are not so keen or aware of the show this will disappoint or even frustrate. For one thing, if you’ve seen the trailer you’ve seen most of the main gags.
Then there’s the fact the film takes the approach of adding in celebrities, loads of them – everywhere and in every scene there’s a cameo. Some of these work – Gwendoline Christie, Rebel Wilson & Jon Hamm to name but three- and some just flopped – Jerry Hall and Jean-Paul Gaultier displayed beyond awful ‘acting’ ability. However, instead of enhancing the story, they make-up the story. When watching it feels as if the celebrities were called in, or called in themselves asking for a role, and the storyline was manufactured from there. A join-the-dots approach to create a story with little substance.
What little there is of a story is archetypal for an extended sitcom episode- taking the characters we love to another country. Gasp! Let’s watch them engage in the customs of the land. Chuckle! Although it is evident the film was made with love for the characters, who we get to observe in their unabashedly badly behaved glory, it isn’t as funny as it could have been. At times it feels lazy and far too celebrity obsessed. Yes, this may be an accurate reflection of our main characters, but it also feels tired and out-dated. Like a relic from a past era it relies on in-jokes and cliches. And yet this didn’t bother me so much as my surroundings when watching the film were perfect for the occasion – 7pm at Picturehouse Central. The 90% capacity screen was made up with middle-aged amazonian women and groups of immaculately made-up men, this was clearly their show; laughs and cheers were constant throughout.
Saunders and Lumley play their characters with perfection but the written material isn’t there to make this a swansong that is absolute or fabulous. It’s not vintage Bolly but it will be a respite for the sport-weary and a reunion with old friends for those who loved the show.