Comedy is really hard to write you guys. It really is and you need only look at the last few years as proof of that. By my count this year there have been 14 comedies I haven’t really laughed much in. Isn’t that a depressing statistic? There have been a few standouts that did make me laugh such as Barbershop: the Next Cut, Central Intelligence and Ghostbusters but that’s about it.
So I went into the theater on Monday for an advanced screening of Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie hoping above all else to laugh. I needed a good laugh. Sadly the movie didn’t give me much to chuckle about.
Absolutely Fabulous: the Movie is of course based on the characters from the British TV show. Edina and Patsy are now nearing retirement age and finding themselves becoming less relevant by the day. They are still the bad examples they always were with their partying ways but in the days of reality TV antics nobody really cares any more. Still, Edina needs to save her PR firm so they want to sign Kate Moss as a client. However, she ends up dying and the ladies become suspects on the run!
This seems like a funny set up and there are a couple laughs but they are too few and far between for me. Jennifer Saunders is great at the physical comedy and knows how to do a drunk walk better than most but it grows old quick
I think part of the problem is the jokes become very repetitive. Patsy is selfish. Edina is a narcissistic hot mess who screws everything up and that’s repeated in various forms again and again.
There is also a dated quality to the jokes. Back in the 90s when the show originally aired such antics were so outrageous. Now in the world of reality TV narcissism it feels overdone and played out.
Chris Colfer from Glee had some really nice moments as does Rebel Wilson as a hilarious flight attendant but in a way these fresh young talents were a reminder of the stale gag of the AbFab women. Sorry if that sounds harsh but it’s how I felt.
Julia Sawalha feels very awkward as Saffy, Edina’s daughter but I did like a scene where she sings At 17 by Janis Ian in a drag queen club. Colfer is great in this scene as well.
There are lots of cameos like most comedies these days (over 60 listed cameos in this film) and a few like Wilson work but a lot fizzle. And a number of characters are underused such as the rival PR pro played by Celia Imrie.
I particularly didn’t like a sequence where they go to Cannes and swindle an old rich lady. When humor like that fizzles it feels really mean. Edina also drags her granddaughter Lola through all of this without notifying her mother. This seemed too cold even for her. When you are involving a child in this kind of nonsense to me it changes the tone and is harder to laugh at. They also endanger the life of a friend of theirs and don’t give it even a moments thought beyond their own problems. Again if the jokes work I can forgive it but it didn’t, so it feels mean. Laughter excuses all as they say and this didn’t have enough.
I feel bad in a way because I really wanted to laugh but about 80% of the gags just lay flat and didn’t make me laugh. I was left thinking ‘why is that funny?’.
I don’t know what grade to give it because humor is so subjective but I must own I don’t see why this is 81% and Zoolander 2 is at 23%. The two movies are extremely similar. They both are about are ‘sequels’ to properties people love, about ‘has-beens’ in fashion, and their selfish escapades across Europe. They both have lots of cameos and the style of the jokes are very similar. I certainly don’t think this is 4 times better but what do I know. Zoolander 2 actually may have even made me laugh more.
All that said, there are a few laughs and the ladies give it their all. I’m giving it the same grade I gave Zoolander 2 which is probably very generous and proof how hard up I am for a laugh.
Overall Grade C
This is definitely a pretty strong R rating so you’ve been warned.