David Appleby
July 14, 2016 at 08:03 PM EDT

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

Current Status
In Season
90 minutes
release date
We gave it a B

They’re back, sweetie darlings—though it feels like they never left us. Nearly a quarter century after Patsy (Joanna Lumley) and Edina (Jennifer Saunders) first tumbled into cult-sitcom history in a sozzled tangle of champagne, ciggies, and Chanel, they’ve finally taken their glorious mess to the big screen. And age may bring Botox, but it can’t buy wisdom: PR agent Edie’s delusions of grandeur are undiminished by her dwindling client list (Baby Spice, the ’60s pop star Lulu, a “boutique vodka” line) and failed attempt at selling her memoirs; magazine editor Patsy’s still a chain-smoking, man-eating hedonist with a Billy Idol snarl and an emergency cache of pharmaceuticals stashed in her platinum bouffant. They’re feckless and reckless and they regrette rien. But when Edie accidentally shoves Kate Moss into the Thames at a runway-show afterparty, she suddenly becomes not just a fashion-world pariah but a social-media punching bag across the globe—and when she escapes to the south of France, an international fugitive too.

The plot is pure farce, plumped out to 90 minutes: high-camp silliness gilded by glittery settings and an endless stream of series regulars and celebrity cameos. (Some, like Moss, Jon Hamm, and Rebel Wilson, actually have memorable speaking roles; for the most part, though, they pop up as visual gags or just play very glamorous wallpaper in party scenes.)

 The sheer volume of famous faces—and the work it takes to wedge them all in—sometimes overwhelms the story (or worse, tries to substitute for it). And every alumni walk-on and winky reference is so deeply part of the show’s mythology that it’s hard to imagine AbFab newbies finding an entry point.

Ultimately though, it’s all secondary to Saunders and Lumley’s riotous chemistry together. It’s that, and their unhinged abandon in the roles, that keep the movie from descending into a tired Zoolander 2 boogaloo. Are they a danger to themselves and others? Probably. Greedy, shallow, pill-popping lunatics? Absolutely. But they’re also, as Edie wisely points out more than once, “bloody good fun.” B

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