Release Date: July 22, 2016
Runtime: 90 minutes
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Director: Mandie Fletcher
Cast: Jennifer Saunders; Joanna Lumley; Jane Horrocks; Julia Sawalha; June Whitfield; Chris Colfer; Celia Imrie; Kathy Burke
This movie is a love letter to the fans, plain and simple. While it is possible to enjoy the madness as an “Ab Fab” virgin, the experience will be greatly heightened if you have followed the misadventures of Patsy and Eddie for at least some of their (non-consecutive) seven-year run on television.
Patsy and Eddie (Joanna Lumley and writer Jennifer Saunders) are back in true chain-smoking, champagne-swilling, drug-guzzling fashion. This time, they are on the run to the south of France after Eddie inadvertently knocks Kate Moss into the Thames, creating a national tragedy which makes Brexit look like a passing fad!
The “plot,” however, is really just a clothesline on which to hang a veritable receiving line of characters, major and minor, from the show. The series mainstays are back: put-upon daughter, Saffy (Julia Sawalha); Eddie’s batty mother, Gran (90-year-young, June Whitfield); Eddie’s loopy assistant, Bubble (Jane Horrocks). (The lone addition to the core cast is Saffy’s now teenage daughter, Lola, played by engaging newcomer, Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness.) Fans, however, will regale with joy and applaud at some of the relatively minor characters from the show that Saunders trots out for a quick scene or two, none of which I will mention here so as not to spoil the fun. Suffice it to say that both 60s pop star Lulu and ex-Spice Girl Emma Bunton, both of whom featured prominently in the show, reveal themselves to be good sports here. As an additional treat, the movie is chock-full of celebrity cameos from the likes of Jon Hamm, Rebel Wilson, Joan Collins, Graham Norton, and countless others, both American and British. Director Mandie Fletcher, a veteran of British television, expands the series to suitably fit the new medium, as well: it’s quite fun to see what Eddie’s London house looks like from angles impossible to see given the studio-set format of the show.
Saunders (who created the TV show with her longtime comedy partner, Dawn French) knows exactly what the fans want to see and she provides it. While the movie isn’t as riotous or laugh-a-minute funny as the series, a casualty of padding out a one-joke premise to 90 minutes, perhaps, the movie still provides many laugh-out-loud moments that the faithful will appreciate. Patsy is still perpetually drunk and never without her cigarette and Eddie is as sloppy as ever. Essentially, the film is a longer version of the TV show, but that should suit the cult of “Ab Fab” just fine. While not great cinema (but with a movie like this, who cares?), the movie retains the slapdash feel of the series with the end result being a comfortable thank you to the loyal fan base that has made this show such a cult phenomenon. Cheers, sweetie darling!