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Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie


Stars: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness, Jane Horrocks, June Whitfield, Chris Colfer, Celia Imrie, Kathy Burke, Rebel Wilson, Kate Moss, Lulu, Emma Bunton, Robert Webb, Barry Humphries, Mo Gaffney, Christopher Ryan, Mark Gatiss, Jerry Hall, Jon Hamm, Gwendoline Christie, Jeremy Paxman, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Joan Collins

Director: Mandie Fletcher

At one stage during Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley’s increasingly unfunny epic of smug, self-satisfied self-promotion, a sequence featuring television news suggests “CONTACT THE BBC HELPLINE”.

Since the BBC co-funded the film, perhaps their helpline, usefully featured on screen during a TV news broadcast sequence, could help disappointed moviegoers retrieve the money they wasted, along with their time, paying to see the probably past-it pair frolic happily to their all-too-evident self-satisfaction (but sadly not mine).

If audience figures for the celebrated television series, which ended four years ago, are to be believed, viewers thought the small-screen version was fabulous.

Not so here.

“Fatuous” might be a more accurate description.

Screenwriter/star Saunders appears to have run out of comic invention early on, so that the resulting ever more hectic but less and less amusing monkeyshines soon become irksome rather than amusing.

Depth is entirely missing from the one-dimensional characters she and Lumley overplayed in the television shows. We get more of the same (only larger and even less credible on the big screen), with acute characterisations limited to seeing Lumley falling out of a car blind drunk and then licking a champagne bottle while Saunders plays - well, Saunders.

Saunders’ essential storyline has her being humiliated by a publisher who passes on her proposed autobiography, leaving her having to revive her PR business by acquiring Kate Moss as a client for London Fashion Week.

Cue any number of product placement plugs, but celebrities – great, not so great and sadly all too frequently for me “Who?”- all lead to a drink-sodden party where Saunders accidentally pushes Moss into the Thames.

The legendary model vanishes and Saunders is accused of murder…

More misfiring capers continue when Saunders and Lumley head for the South of France to raise money, convincingly pose as dress store dummies and offer more opportunities for even more pointless guest stars including Joan Collins, Baby Spice, Stella McCartney, Jerry Hall, Lulu et al, many of them playing themselves with a reasonable level of credibility.

Guest Jon Snow sums things up all too well when he turns to the camera and complains, “Is there really nothing else happening in the world?” There’s little happening on screen to justify the time and expense misused making the film or, indeed, wasted in watching it.

John Hamm – who has a minor speaking role as someone who lost his virginity to Lumley when he was a teenager and keeps a commendably straight face while committing his role to film – is the least hammy of all the performers.

Lumley and Saunders serve up much much more ham, and sustain that level of television style over-acting all the way through their film.

This trashy TV movie masquerading as a feature film is perfect in one respect however – watch it on DVD and you’ll worship the inventor of the fast forward button.

Unlike missing model Moss who eventually turns up unharmed from immersion in the Thames (wooden enough to float, perhaps?) second-time feature film director Mandie Fletcher wasn’t so fortunate, delivering a mostly mirthless jumble designed to please Saunders and Lumley considerably more than entertain mere paying audiences.

When I paid to see the film in a North London cinema, it was packed – by all three of us!

Alan Frank

UK/USA 2016. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox . Colour.
90 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 2, Swearing 2.

Review date: 04 Jul 2016