Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley stumble back into the roles of Edina and Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie as though they’d been awakened from a drunken coma (this is a compliment). Still dabbling in the world of fashion and PR, they appear to have barely aged since their TV series from the 1990s. What’s their secret of youth? Chances are they might have stumbled onto the perfect chemical mixture amid the dozens of pills they’ve swallowed. The Botox injections probably help too.
What’s more pleasing to witness is how the humor of Absolutely Fabulous remains as fast-paced and bitingly bombastic as it ever was. The satirical jabs at the world fashion, beauty, decadence, progressivism and fame come more than welcome in the 21st century where such commentary feels missing. The fearless and quick pacing of the slurring, boozing and ridiculous displays of clothing never let up. If one joke doesn’t work, the next one is sure to be either clever or laugh-worthy.
Okay, so our characters are back and the tone is firmly reestablished, but there is still one big hurdle the movie has to conquer. It is the issue of any TV series being adapted into a movie, even one that’s been dormant for many years: Is there a story here that deserves a movie?
For the first half of this picture, there appears to be one worth telling on the big screen. Edina is struggling to find some meaning in her life as a PR agent just barely hanging in there. Age and family begin to creep into her concerning mind, but only as briefly as her go-go lifestyle of publicity will allow. When presented with an opportunity to land Kate Moss as a client, she jumps at the prospect to save her career. She jumps so forcefully, in fact, that she ends up knocking Kate Moss into the river where she is presumed dead.
This inciting incident doesn’t so much drive a story as it does act as a platform for more of the female duo’s antics. Accused of murder, Edina and Patsy flee the United Kingdom to hide out in France. It’s around this third act that the movie begins to lose sight of any arc and just sets up basic sitcom-level premises for comedy. To land some money in France, Patsy dresses up as a man to woo the world’s wealthiest woman into marrying her. She even completes her disguise with the old stick-on mustache. Not exactly the height of this series for premises.
This is the very definition of a TV-to-movie translation in how it assembles all the familiar characters and struggles to fit them all in somewhere. Even more crowding is a lengthy roster of celebrity cameos playing either themselves (Jon Hamm as an old love of Patsy) or bit roles (Rebel Wilson as a flight attendant). Certain arcs are lost along the way as the movie continuously searches for funny moments to exploit rather character traits to develop. It’s rather disappointing how the movie never really brings the show to a close and just acts as four more episodes of the TV series.
Read more to watch the trailer for Absolutely Fabulous: