Alex Casey is a staff writer for New Zealand pop culture-obsessed website The Spinoff and columnist for the NZ Herald.

Movie review: Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

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You know that feeling when you drink a crate of Bollinger, smoke a carton of cigarettes and then pass out for a decade or two, only to crawl back under the disco ball and pretend like nothing happened? You might be a bit wheezy, have a bit of a headache, and certainly no awareness of what has been going on in your absence, but by God are you going to have a dance again.

That is basically what Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is like, plopping the beloved characters from the riotous 90s British sitcom in 2016, drizzling them in Champagne and celebrity cameos, and seeing what comes out the other side.

Edina (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) return as the dynamic socialite duo, with frumpy daughter, snarky mother and fashionable young granddaughter in tow.

I'll admit, it is great to get a much-needed injection of British whimsy and nonsense in these grim post-Brexit times. Seeing PR powerhouse Eddie and her best mate Pats back onscreen feels a bit like finding an old pair of snazzy pants you had forgotten about.

"Man, these pants were great," you think, until you pull them on and they split at the bum. Just like those doomed pants, I'm sorry to say that Ab Fab just doesn't quite fit anymore.
The premise of the film is as thin as Kate Moss' arm: Eddie's PR empire is struggling, with her only clients being Scottish singer Lulu and a "boutique vodka". Dragging her granddaughter to a fashionista party in a last-gasp attempt to get some new clientele, Edina accidentally knocks Moss into the Thames. She and Patsy go on the run from the police and the rest of the high society world that wants them dead. Without any money, they must go to extreme lengths to secure a new life of luxury and caviar.

The feature-length film feels like an extremely stretched out TV episode, swapping substance for celebrities. Have we learned nothing from Zoolander 2? Don't give famous fashionistas lines unless you have a special wish for the scene to become as wooden as Pinocchio's backside. There's a reason Stella McCartney is making frocks and not winning Oscars.

More charismatic cameos are on offer from John Hamm, Rebel Wilson and Graham Norton, it's just a pity none of them are on screen for more than a scene.
The roles that shine, thank goodness, remain the two hedonistic leads, every move they make a parody of high society, self-help and ego. Saunders' confused, self-loathing, childlike Edina is as shambolic as ever, complimented perfectly by the stoic husk of Lumley's Patsy. When they wake up in various areas of the bathroom after a big night out, you can't help but laugh while they trip, stagger and swagger around. The physical comedy comes thick and fast, be it slapstick style pratfalls or liposuction as part of a daily beauty routine.

But beyond the undeniable chemistry of our old favourites, the film hits too many dud notes to be popping the Bolly anytime soon. Much like the ill-fated fashion takedown Zoolander 2, Ab Fab misses a huge opportunity to skewer the modern state of social media, fashion and celebrity. Aside from Patsy using Tinder, shoehorned in to remind us what decade we're in, the jokes feel dated and rely incredibly heavily on crossdressing and race as a punchline.

You'd hope it would have matured like a fine vintage champagne, but unfortunately Absolutely Fabulous is one franchise that hasn't aged well.

Rated: M
Opens Thursday

- Spy.co.nz

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