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Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, film review: ‘Jennifer Saunders always struck me as untalented’

PUBLISHED: 17:00 01 July 2016

Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley star in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. Picture: David Appleby

Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley star in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. Picture: David Appleby

Archant

In the interest of fairness and balance: I’ve never seen an episode of Absolutely Fabulous.

Tried once (after Time Out said it was a classic British sitcom to rank up there with Fawlty Towers, Dad’s Army and Steptoe and Son - never, ever listen to anything in Time Out) but didn’t make it to the end.

So I can’t tell you how successful the transfer to the big screen has been.

I will say though that it wasn’t nearly as hateful an experience as I was expecting.

For 15 to 20 minutes I was teetering on the edge of enjoyment but the initial burst of enthusiasm soon wore off; a reaction that seemed to be mirrored by the rest of the audience.

Buoyed up by free champagne and an introduction by Saunders and Lumley, an auditorium filled with fans and people who worked on the film was wildly enthusiastic to begin with but by the end only those with the determined hedonistic stamina of Edina and Patsy were still laughing.

I’d say there were three reasons why I never got into Ab Fab.

Firstly, I’m a heterosexual male (though that’s largely a ceremonial position these days) .

Secondly, of all the multitude of chancers and charlatans that weaselled their way into power in the 80s under the banner of being Alternative Comedy (and that’s a very large number of chancers and charlatans), Jennifer Saunders always struck me as the most untalented.

As a performer she is a gush of am dram enthusiasm – keen but guileless.

That may suit knowing pantomime of Ab Fab but it still seems inadequate next to Lumley’s skilled caricature of Patsy.

As a writer though she has come up with plenty of funny moments and witty lines. I guess a recurring criticism of the movie will be that there are more celebrity cameos than laughs in it.

That’s true but then there are a multitude of cameos in Ab Fab: there are probably more celebrity cameos in it than there are laughs in Spinal Tap.

Thirdly is the dull, obvious one that a send up of the world of fashion and PR is fundamentally pointless.

There have been many examples of Self Fulfilling Parody: two decades ago Chris Morris’s The Day Today had David Dimbleby chairing Questing Time at Wembley Stadium; a week ago he hosted a referendum debate at Wembley Arena.

Ab Fab though was more of gateway satire, an aspirational send up that was served to spread and normalise these values in mainstream society, an enticement to behave badly and embrace empty materialism and celebrity worship.

As such it is probably irrelevant if the film is any good or not – these days everything is Marvellous and Fabulous, so fans can make their own fun with it in the way they did with Mamma Mia.

Rating: 2/5 stars

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