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Absolutely Fabulous is absolutely hard to follow

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Joanna Lumley as "Patsy" and Jennifer Saunders as "Edina" in the film ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS. Photo by David Appleby. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved - DAVID APPLEBY. © 2016 TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX FILM CORPORATION ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  • David Appleby. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved
  • Joanna Lumley as "Patsy" and Jennifer Saunders as "Edina" in the film ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS. Photo by David Appleby. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Based on the long-running BBC namesake, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie focuses on party-hard, middle-aged duo Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley), whose jokes and bodies seem preserved in a mixture of champagne, cigarette smoke and formaldehyde.

Like a British I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, slobbering over the same puffy lifestyle that Zoolander burst into absurdity, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is obsession masquerading as satire.

It might want us to think its main characters, the bad people who succeed in the end, are damnations of a lifestyle or an industry, but they exist as wish fulfillment in a deeply ironic way. Audience members are meant to look at the ladies in their knitting club seated next to them, slap them on the hand with their liver-spotted wrists and say “Oh darling, they’re so bad” all while luxuriating in the film’s sociopathy.

The film’s attempts at comedy are cruel, with a slapstick attitude lacking any physical comedy and gross-out class without anything gross. Its two empty-headed posh princesses past their prime, Monsoon the PR diva and Stone the questionably employed cougar, seem to put aside their jobs in order to be full-time menaces to society. They binge on drugs and booze and are the stereotypical bad grannies whose lewd behavior is used as a cheap gag. At least they don’t rap.

These two go on a strange quest involving the repercussions from the accidental manslaughter of model Kate Moss and the hunt for rich husbands to mooch from. Most of AbFab takes place at parties, in mansions or in the ritziest parts of the French Riviera, but all looks like the set decorators from Saturday Night Live threw together a few scenes for some cut sketches.

This must be intentional.

The lights are flat and the scenes shot so tightly that the glamour espoused from every corner of the film feels merely like leftover confetti after a hastily cleaned college party.

Meanwhile, the women selfishly treat everyone with disdain, something that could be funny if the film ever made their behavior a joke rather than a pointed fact — one that we’re asked to sympathize with. I haven’t seen the original show, but I can assure you their humor has not aged well.

The plot is far too scattershot to follow, as subplots spring up with characters we are meant to recognize that last all of 30 seconds. Monsoon’s long-suffering daughter has a police officer boyfriend and a black daughter. Gay characters are gossiping hairdressers or peacocking drag queens, and the idea of transexuality crops up over and over as a punchline. There’s a small Asian woman named Huki Muki played by a white comedian in yellowface — not for the purposes of a joke, mind you, but presumably because those associated with the project only wanted to include their old, white, British friends.

It’s like hanging out with your spoiled great aunt at Thanksgiving for an hour until she gets plastered and ruins everything. She might think she’s funny, but she’s really just making everyone uncomfortable.

It’s a genderbent Adam Sandler movie whose latent xenophobia explains Brexit better than any press conference.

https://youtu.be/Dj3ZWhlmexw

Print headline: Not Fab, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie employs its predecessor’s outdated humor with shaky success.

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