Any film that includes “:The Movie” in its title is bound to be little more than a larger version of the TV show, videogame or whatever the source material may be. “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie,” based on the popular British TV show about best friends bonded by a shared enthusiasm for heavy-drinking and drug abuse, is true to form in that it is less a movie than it is an excuse for some sitcom nostalgia.
Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) are hard-living socialites on the edges of London high society. Edina is a washed-up PR agent, trying desperately to maintain her lavish lifestyle. She’s not out of money, her “cards are broken.” Patsy is the fashion editor of a snooty magazine who injects foetus blood into her face every morning to stave off the effects of partying and age.
When Edina’s plan to sell her memoir to a huge publisher fails—“You think your life is interesting, but it isn’t,” she’s told. “It may be worth living but it’s not worth reading.”—she becomes determined to recruit fashion icon Kate Moss as a client. Thus begins a wild journey that includes suspected manslaughter, a sham marriage, worldwide grieving and more self-absorption than you can shake a bottle of Bollinger Champagne at. Self absorbed and on the run from a murder charge, Patsy and Adina confront their age and try to keep the party going.
“Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie” isn’t exactly absolutely fabulous. That’s the easy joke, which is appropriate because this movie goes for the easy joke time after time. It certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel and makes up for its lack of inventiveness with a parade of cameos from British luminaries like Lulu, Emma Bunton, Joan Collins and Graham Norton. In all there are 60 celebrity drive-bys. The only one missing is a Benny Hill.
The leads are broad characters in the sitcom tradition, prime examples of the dangers of arrested development. Luckily both can deliver a line—“Leopard skin and liver spots… that’s old age camouflage.”—with dead precision and will do almost anything to get a laugh and the over-the-top reaction to Kate Moss’s disappearance is very funny (“She will either have drowned or be very, very wet.”), I just wish there were more laughs to be had. I think fans of the television show will still get a kick out of Edina and Patsy’s co-dependence and enabling—it’s the glue that binds them together—but for everyone else the movie will feel like an overlong sitcom episode.