Absolutely Fabulous, one of my fave TV shows, was fresh, edgy, and bloody hilarious in its day—the dog’s bollocks, if you will. Stateside, it’s proven to be too much for prime time network television: ABC and FOX both abandoned plans to adapt it, the latter as recently as 2009 (http://www.tvtonight.com.au/2009/05/fox-rejects-ab-fab-remake.html). As executive producer Jon Plowman noted, “[t]he trouble with doing Ab Fab in America is that it will have to end with Edina and Saffy hugging, Patsy giving up drink and drugs, and them all hugging mum. It won’t work. It’ll be too nice.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/3153677/US-remake-for-Absolutely-Fabulous.html). Hold that thought.
Since the end of its original BBC run in 1995, Ab Fab’s few revivals have consistently fallen short. I was skeptical about a full-length movie 25 years on. While not the disaster I feared it would be, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie still isn’t the knees up full Monty I wanted.
Eddy (Jennifer Saunders), Patsy (Joanna Lumley), Saffy (Julia Sawalha), even Mrs. Monsoon (June Whitfield) are the same, which is great—who doesn’t love them? They each have some good lines and some bright moments. Pats hasn’t lost her signature deadpan snarl, and the animosity between her and Saffy is still very much alive. The problem, however, is that the world has changed, which is partly why Ab Fab doesn’t have the same impact. For one thing, Eddy and Patsy’s irrelevance is really irrelevant today. They’ve become anachronisms; their antics ring more tired and pathetic than funny after awhile. Worse, everything about their fashionable world is passé. A prominent figure in the plot is supermodel…Kate Moss? The many celebrity cameos—Jerry Hall, Jean Paul Gaultier, Dame Edna, and Joan Collins to name a few—are fun, but none of them are setting any fires these days. Aside from Jon Hamm and Rebel Wilson, the faded glory here is enough to book Hollywood Squares for a month solid.
The movie has as much substance as an episode, but it’s clearly stretched to fill the time; Ab Fab episodes were only 35 minutes for a good reason. Some of the character twists, particularly Bubble (Jane Horrocks) and Marshall (Christopher Ryan), don’t make sense. Eddy gets soft toward the end: she delivers a monologue about wanting to be loved all her life, telling Saffy she loves her. Ugh. Say that again, Mr. Plowman?
I didn’t hate Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie; I got some laughs out of it. I didn’t love it, though. I could have overlooked its shortcomings had it been funnier. As it stands, I prefer Ab Fab where it fits best: in the ’90s.
(AMC River East) C