Just off the top of my head, I have reviewed three movies which have come from TV shows. Two direct adaptations, Entourage and Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie which came 1st and 2nd in my worst films of the year list, which should show you their respective quality. And then there was Dad’s Army which was more of a remake of the old series as a movie, but while that film wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t any good either. It’s very rare to see a TV show successfully translate into being a movie but here I am with Absolutely Fabulous: the Movie. Does it buck the trend?
With her money running out fast, Edina (Jennifer Saunders, Coraline) is trying to get more clients at her PR job. But at a celeb party, she accidentally pushes the model Kate Moss into the Thames and she is presumed dead. So Edina and long time friend Patsy (Joanna Lumley, The Wolf Of Wall Street) go on the run to the south of France to avoid being arrested.
So let’s go over why many TV shows that are great in their original form, and indeed the Absolutely Fabulous show is pretty funny if not a classic, don’t make for good movies. There’s usually two running times. First off, the running time. British sitcoms are usually around 22 minutes to 28 minutes long, which is enough for a simple plot which is designed to get as many laughs as possible. However for a film, you have to be 90 minutes, and usually that means a plot designed for twenty odd minutes ends up being padded so it can last for three times that length. Therefore, the film ends up being boring and not very funny. Amazingly, Absolutely Fabulous manages to get around by giving us a plot that lasts. it takes a while for the incident with Kate Moss to happen, so we can get a feel for the world, the characters and for the events to feel real. I’m sure you could pack this plot into a regular episode, but I can’t say it ever felt padded for time.
The other flaw is that because everything is upgraded for the film, from the sets to the camera equipment used, everything feels a bit different and something is lost. Unfortunately, that is the case here. Because Absolutely Fabulous was a fairly traditional sitcom, it was all based on dingy looking sets in front of a live audience, with the requisite canned laughter. This film takes all of that away and that atmosphere of the original is taken away. The weaker jokes are exposed without the audience laughter and it just doesn’t feel right. It’s hard to put a finger on, but things just aren’t right.
But the film falls down where it simply can’t, it’s just not funny enough. I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t laugh at all, there were some good jokes when the film gets really vicious with the fashion and celebrity culture, which the film and TV show is a giant parody of, and the odd line from Patsy would get a chuckle, but there wasn’t enough of it. Some of the jokes against the fashion industry felt played out and a bit tired while some simply fell on their arse, which was pretty much everything that involved Edina’s personal assistant Bubble (Jane Horrocks, Chicken Run) which was cringey at best and kick the TV screen bad at worst.
And I think the film realized the humor was a bit crap so it relied on what so many of these bad films rely on, cameos! Lots of cameos! You get a cameo, everyone gets a cameo! Think of a British celebrity, and chances are they will be in this. Lots of models and designers that I don’t recognize like Alexa Chung and Stella McCartney? Check. British presenters who no one knows off these shores? We’ve got Alex Jones, the presenter from The One Show not the conspiracy nutter, and Nick Grimshaw. Now let’s add Jon Hamm, Bruno Tonioli, Lulu (As the main villain no less), Emma Bunton, Alesha Dixon, Daisy Lowe, Dawn French, Rebel Wilson and Jeremy Paxman, though he does get the best line in the film. They are so desperate to chuck anyone with the slightest bit of fame at you Rylan Clarke is in this. RYLAN CLARK! When did he become cameo worthy? Anyway, it’s just lazy. They are just expecting the audience to get a cheap pop from recognizing people and it’s frankly insulting.
And maybe if they used some of this time they spent on pointless cameos to develop some of the plot threads that simply left hanging, they might have had a better film. For instance, Edina’s straight laced daughter Saffy (Julia Sawalha, Chicken Run) doesn’t want her own daughter Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness, First Feature Film) to be influenced by her grandmother, yet she finds them rather interesting. This could be mined for good comedy and an emotional heart this film really needs, but it turns out she’s just a motor to move the plot forward and is forgotten about as soon as her usefulness to the plot expires. Another potentially interesting plot thread is Edina’s rivalry with fellow PR Claudia (Celia Imrie, Bridget Jones’ Diary) but again, just a motor to move the plot along. So much potential is wasted, which makes this almost as infuriating as Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie, until you remember how bad that film was and how much torture it put you through.
I’ve been incredibly harsh on Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie which is slightly unfair as it is better than the other movie adaptations of TV shows I’ve reviewed, mainly because it did have the capability to make me laugh. But this film has a decent plot and could have added some more interesting sub-plots if it had bothered as well as a great base to build off so to see it fail like this is incredibly frustrating. This should have been hilarious, but bad jokes and an over reliance on cameos means this film is anything but fabulous.