Absolutely Fabulous or ‘Ab-Fab’, as it is commonly known, has been a BBC comedy favourite since 1990, following the lives of Patsy and Edina in their quest to remain young, beautiful, rich and intoxicated. With an IMDb rating of 8.2 and countless awards to its name you would think that unlike many sketch show to blockbuster films this one would work on the big screen. Sadly it did anything but…
The film finds the two characters preparing for London’s Huki Muki fashion show, a chance for Edina to collar an A-Lister and save her withering PR business. Within 30 minutes the film had played its entire hand, trooping out celebrity after celebrity, who are no doubt genuine fans of the show, in a parade of the French and Saunders friends list, accompanied of course by some simply there for the pay check.
At this point the film reminded of Harry Hill’s problematic attempt at a film from 2013, covering dreadful scriptwriting and humour with the guise of famous faces to ease your suffering. Once the excitement of pointing at these celebs saying, “it’s so and so from thingy” wares off, the film grows worse. Edina played by Jennifer Saunders, ends up a fugitive following an incident at the fashion show as her hopes of attaining Kate Moss’ for her PR business are dashed in a few moments of wincing slapstick as celebrities, (not actors by trade, let’s remember,) struggle with simple acting.
The hope that the film will suddenly burst into life is never realised…
Patsy, Edina’s best friend, played by Joanna Lumley, to many the funniest character of the show for her complete disregard for the BBC ethics codes in the ‘90s (including several drug addictions and being a generally vile person,) was shackled and dull… perhaps the quest to attain a 15 age rating for the film costing it some of its former humour for the sake of a few more ticket sales. Delivery seemed off pace, drawn out, the same number of laugh out loud moments a 30 minute show contains were there… just dragged out over 90+ minutes.
As the story unfolds it becomes more predictable and less engaging. Normally with Ab Fab or other French and Saunders productions (particularly the much loved sitcom The Vicar of Dibley) you can imagine the coming calamity but when it climaxes it is still hilarious, here that is not the case. The hope that the film will suddenly burst into life is never realised, instead it meanders towards the end trying to cram in jokes that simply extend the run time.
For a French and Saunders production based on one of their most loved creations with a huge cult fan base, this film misses the mark tremendously. Slow, dull, plastered with useless celebrity cameos and characters that just seem out of sync with each other… it really is a struggle. Even Robert Webb, a great comedic actor as seen in Peep Show, resembles more his annoying, one dimensional persona from the Movie Mistakes show on BBC Three. Saffy, the straight nosed uptight daughter of Edina, played by Julia Sawalha, has an on screen daughter, played by the young and upcoming Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness is another example of how the energy in this film is lacklustre at best. It seems all too much like she was told in production, “Give us stroppy teenager with a frown, nothing else, and especially nothing creative.”
The film is thus indicative of a recent decline in comedy films. The primary aim seems to be box-office takings, with celeb cameos and big comedy names offering appeal in posters and trailers, but with a huge black hole where the real comedy should be. Turning sitcoms into films is a difficult art; more attention and care must be paid in future if they are to succeed.
By Arran Byers
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