Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is the very embodiment of a movie that won’t be for everyone. Long-time fans of the popular 90s television series will get a kick out of Edina and Patsy’s big screen return, but if you failed to see the appeal on the small screen, the same will be true here. Ab Fab, as I’m informed it’s frequently known as, is undeniably silly and occasionally a tad asinine. However, there’s an honest heart to the feature which makes it rather endearing, even though it’s not quite enough to make up for the rather lackluster attempts at comedy that eventually stack up too high to be glossed over.
The chemistry between leading pair Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley is what really stands out about Absolutely Fabulous, which makes Edina (Saunders) and Patsy’s (Lumley) tight friendship particularly believable. Even when the writing comes up short, a disappointingly frequent occurrence, the two play off each other so well that you’ll remain at least somewhat invested in their plight. Saunders is arguably the real star of the show as Edina, who may be a bumbling fool but you’ll root for her success, and many of the major laughs come thanks to her. While taken very much to the extreme, Edina represents the everyday person simply looking for career and personal success making her plight very easy to relate to and the character very endearing.
It’s good that Edina and Patsy are at least enjoyable to watch because the events unfolding around them certainly aren’t. The main focus of the movie revolves around Edina’s continued attempts to make it as a successful PR agent which eventually results in her inadvertently killing Kate Moss. Transforming a television show into a feature length film can be difficult and, unfortunately, Absolutely Fabulous falls into all of the predictable potholes. The stakes aren’t really raised and the narrative could have very easily been told in a thirty-minute episode watched from the comfort of your home rather than a slightly less comfortable movie theater.
When Edina and Patsy flee to France after the public turn on the former for her accidental murder of a national icon, things pick up a little. In the bright sunshine of Cannes the film finally comes alive and the jokes, along with the wine, start to flow. Watching Patsy pretend to be a man in order to score some money from a wealthy old woman is a bizarre highlight and perfectly sums up the movie’s nonsensical sense of humour. It’s unforgivable that Absolutely Fabulous takes nearly half its running time to warm up, but those who stick out the bland first half are rewarded. The plot resolution is too neat and insultingly convenient, but expecting anything less from such a movie would be foolish.
Edina’s long-suffering daughter returns as well with a child of her own to boot. It wouldn’t be Ab Fab without Julia Sawalha’s Saffy looking exacerbated at her mother’s antics. But, truthfully, her subplot about trying to be a good parent falls utterly flat and is the chief culprit for the slow first act. The best of the supporting cast comes in the form of Chris Colfer as a stylist. Colfer appears to have had a ball with the role, and the heartiest laughs all come when he opens his mouth. There’s also a large number of celebrity cameos packed within. While most pass without much interest, Rebel Wilson leaves a large impression in a small role as a flight attendant.
While the performances from Saunders and Lumley are sweet, and this is clearly a passion project for them both, the frustrating humour vacuum that dominates almost the entire first half is a great hindrance to the movie. While Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is likely to please those already enraptured with the television show, everybody else is likely to be left a little cold.