[Screen It]


(2016) (Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley) (R)

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Comedy: Two boozy British socialites lose everything when one of them is accused of murder, forcing them to flee to the French Riviera.
PR agent Edina (JENNIFER SAUNDERS) and fashion magazine editor Patsy (JOANNA LUMLEY) are best friends who, for decades, have enabled each other's boozy, drug-abusing, chain-smoking lifestyles. But both are in their 60s now, and the pop culture scene is passing them by. Near penniless after her autobiography fails to generate any interest from publishers, Edina is in need of a big client and learns that supermodel Kate Moss (HERSELF) recently fired her publicist. So, she and Patsy manage to gain entry to a swank London party where Edina vies with rival PR guru Claudia Bing (CELIA IMRIE) for Kate's attention.

Unfortunately, Edina accidentally knocks the model off a veranda and into the Thames River where she appears to drown. Britain and the world go into mourning, and Edina becomes a most hated suspect. The negative publicity taints Patsy, as well, who is fired from the magazine. After accidentally drowning Edina's dim-witted assistant Bubble (JANE HORROCKS) in the Thames looking for Moss, the two hatch a scheme to flee to the French Riviera and use Edina's granddaughter, Lola (INDEYARNA DONALDSON-HOLNESS) and her plethora of credit cards for funding, all while Patsy tries to find Charlie (BARRY HUMPHRIES), a rich pornographer she once had a fling with who promised to marry her.

Meanwhile, Edina's level-headed daughter, Saffron (JULIA SAWALHA), tries to find her mother before her police detective boyfriend, Nick (ROBERT WEBB) does. She suspects that her grandmother (JUNE WHITFIELD), who is also in France celebrating a friend's birthday, knows her mom's whereabouts.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
"Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie" is strictly for fans of the cult British sitcom about a couple of boozy, chain-smoking, pill-popping middle-aged women covering the international fashion industry. Edina (Jennifer Saunders) is a PR agent, representing models. Patsy (Joanna Lumley) is a fashion magazine editor. They both like living life to the fullest and being as catty as possible while doing so.

The trouble with their new film is ... well ... there's really not much of a film here. Even at just 86 minutes, the movie seems padded and constantly wandering. The ladies are funny and pretty much every major and minor supporting character who ever graced an episode back in the day are along for the ride, too. But more joy could have been derived by just getting all of these performers together in a restaurant and just filming them chat "My Dinner With Andre" style for an hour or so.

Hey, look, I understand the allure of being a big fan of something and feeling good about seeing your old favorites in literally anything. Most people who read me for any length of time know that I am a huge "Star Wars" fan. If last year's "The Force Awakens" had just been two hours of Han, Luke, Leia, and Chewie pounding back drinks at the Tatooine cantina and telling old war stories to the new cast members ... I would have been fine with that! It would have been worth my time and money.

But ... uh ... it wouldn't have been a good movie.

Edina and Patsy do find themselves in a bit of a caper after Edina accidentally kills supermodel Kate Moss at a London party while trying to offer her publicist services. Broke and outcast, they flee to the French Riviera where Edina tries to help Patsy seduce a rich, older man and grift him of his millions. How well the movie works for you depends on how much you want to see these two unapologetic boozehounds continue to live the lifestyle most people only dream about.

Of course, this being the "Ab Fab" crew, there are some wonderfully quirky laughs to be mined from this thin storyline. Early on, we see Edina self-injecting Botox right into her face and lips to try and maintain as youthful an appearance as possible approaching 60. To which Patsy laughs at her and uses her own syringe to inject fetus blood directly into her aging countenance. "A little spritz of after-birth is much more effective, darling," she advises. I also laughed at Rebel Wilson's cameo as a flight attendant who Patsy quickly gains a dislike for. The sequence ends with Wilson's character lamenting about how miserable it is for her now to have to be nice to transgender people.

I wanted more biting commentary like that! Too often, director Mandie Fletcher thinks her job is done by turning the camera on and watching Edina and Patsy stumble around drunk or high. The end result is sort of "Arthur" crossed with a female buddy film. And that could have been a pretty great experience. But this effort is just too lazy to recommend other than to the hard-core fan. It's absolutely not fabulous for everyone else. I give it a 4.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed July 20, 2016 / Posted July 22, 2016

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