Ab Fab, you can still make me laugh, darling
What This is Spinal Tap did for the rock 'n' roll industry, surely Absolutely Fabulous - especially this feature-film incarnation of the women-behaving-badly Nineties sitcom - does for the fashion and PR industries. You'd go so far as to assume that some parts of this cork-popping farce cut so close to the bone of that whole world that it may prove too accurate to properly laugh at for those in the business. The same charge was often levelled at Rob Reiner's 1984 "mockumentary" by actual rock stars.
It remains to be seen what the smart set make of it, but for general audiences there is good news and bad news. The good is that Eddy (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) are still boozing and fagging and flouncing about the place like C-list emus. Julia Sawalha and Jane Horrocks are just as we remember them as Eddy's frumpy daughter Saffron and cartoonish PA Bubble, respectively. Joining them throughout are an embarrassment of celebrity riches (Lulu, Stella McCartney, Jon Hamm, Jean Paul Gaultier, name your supermodel), all game and all put to very good use.
Everything, thus, is in its right place for a riot of buffoonery that hits its target often enough purely because the central joke - Patsy and Eddy themselves - is still a very funny one all these years later. Saunders, who created the show along with old foil Dawn French, and who writes the screenplay here, gives Patsy the best lines while keeping Eddy's arc at the heart of the shenanigans.
And what of that arc? Well that's the bad news. The "plot", if you'd call it that, is a loosely woven thread of gobbledygook that, like so many sitcom-to-movie crossovers we've endured over the years, scrambles about to fill the running time.
Light on clients and running out of money, Eddy pounces on Kate Moss at a party after discovering the supermodel is between publicists and, in the process, knocks her off a balcony into the Thames. The nation goes into Diana levels of mourning and Eddy is vilified. The next act then sees the pair decamp to Cannes so Patsy can try to snare a millionaire and get both of their bank accounts back in the black. It feels tacked-on, an excuse to send the two loafers off to flap about somewhere luxurious.
Not quite fabulous, no, but admittedly better than expected. 3 Stars
Hilary A White