Sweetie, darling! That’s how you begin any story about “Absolutely Fabulous,” the British sitcom best known to Americans through its endless repeats on Comedy Central in the second half of the ’90s. I never got into it, but I know how to say “Sweetie, darling!” The movie rejoins hedonist celebrity publicist Edina (Jennifer Saunders) and fashion editor Patsy (Joanna Lumley) just as we left them: drinking heavily, popping pills, living off of Edina’s daughter (Julia Sawalha), and avoiding work. Nothing has changed except that they are older, which makes them sadder, more desperate, and potentially funnier as they pursue beauty, youth, and money.
The plot has the gals fleeing to the French Riviera after they’re implicated in Kate Moss’ disappearance and presumed death (the hysterical public reaction to which is quite funny). Strapped for cash, Edina and Patsy scheme for one of them to marry a tycoon in Cannes, only slightly slowed down when the most eligible billionaire turns out to be a woman.
Written by Saunders and directed by Mandie Fletcher, the film plays like a farce at half-speed, setting up amusing scenarios but lacking the energy needed to really crackle. For every caustic put-down or ludicrous visual gag (Lumley dressed as a man), there are five moments where everything grinds to a halt for a cameo, often from the fashion world. Aimed at its TV fans and no one else, “Ab Fab: The Movie” slides right down the middle, probably appeasing the people who’ve waited more than a decade for it but doing little to add to its legacy.
C (abundant harsh profanity and some sexual dialogue; )