Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016)

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It’s surprising to say, but I actually wasn’t looking forward to an AbFab movie. That’s not to say I don’t completely adore the original British television series, Absolutely Fabulous, which ran for 20 years, from 1992 to 2012, starring Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley. I do love the series, which is exactly why I was a little nervous about the prospect of a movie four years after the series ended. While, yes, it is wonderful to revisit characters who you love and miss, it’s important to have a reason to go back. Is there something new to say? Is there something that was left unsaid, some part of the story that needed to be finished? If not, then the concept of a movie just feels a bit…desperate.

An AbFab movie feels very much like a Sex & the City movie. Both series appeal to a very similar audience (although AbFab’s audience is a bit smarter and a bit cattier—and, of course, much more British), and both decided they needed to bring their beloved characters back for a movie (or two). In the case of Sex & the City, the first movie was successful, the second not so much. For the charming and besotted ladies of AbFab, their movie is, sadly, neither successful nor as appealing as it should be, which only reaffirmed my fears and saddened my heart. I may not have been looking forward to an AbFab movie, but I sure was rooting for it. Alas.

All that being said, there’s nothing especially terrible about Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. It gives any fan of the series everything they want: all the favorite characters are back, including Saffy, Bubble, Bo, Magda and Mother, as well as more celebrity cameos that you could shake a champagne glass at. But, of course, who we all came to see are Patsy and Eddie, played with usual brilliance by Lumley and Saunders (who also wrote the screenplay). Patsy and Eddie were the original trainwrecks, long before any Kardashian or Amy Schumer movie existed. Watching them stumble through life, half in the bag, clueless and self-absorbed but unendingly endearing, was the biggest appeal of Absolutely Fabulous, and is still the best thing about Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. But here’s the problem with giving them an entire movie. Unlike a 30-minute show, where there really doesn’t have to be any more of a story other than our two characters literally bumbling around London—cue hilarity—a full-length movie requires a real story, with beginning, middle and end, and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie stumbles in all the wrong ways when it comes to forcing our two idiot heroines to actually do more than interact with each other—which is what we love, and they do, best.

The movie gets completely bogged down by a disaster of a plot that involves attempted murder, fleeing the country, manipulating a marriage, cross-dressing, and an incredibly disturbing (and unfunny) scene with old, rich, ugly men seducing young, beautiful women just because they can? If the intent of Saunders, as the screenwriter, and director Mandie Fletcher, was to put our two characters in as many wacky situations as possible just to see them behave as outlandishly as possible, they only succeeded halfway. Patsy and Eddie certainly behave outlandishly, but nothing feels right—it all feels forced, manipulated and, well, desperate.

The saving grace of Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie still comes back to Saunders and Lumley, especially Lumley, who’s Patsy is and always has been one of the most wickedly funny characters ever created. They both still look great and none of their skill has been dulled by time. If only there could have been a script up to their—and their characters’—standards. They deserved Bollinger and got Korbel.