The new Ghostbusters is carrying the cross for summer blockbusters that don’t exclusively cater to teenage boys ages 12 to far older than teenage. But it’s Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie that’s going to get away with everything Paul Feig’s film hasn’t, and embody all the criticisms Men’s Rights Activists are unfairly lobbing at the comedy. Like Miss Piggy once said selling Quelle Difference alongside Joan Rivers, “It’s French, it’s feminine, it’ll help you grab one of those rotten, stinking men”—especially if you are, yourself, a man.
Continuing the venal misadventures of Eddie (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) as they continue raging against the dying of the spotlight, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie charges out of the gate with a depiction of the pair’s typical morning-after routine: repositioning their smeared make-up, peppering their mugs with quick Botox boosters, frantically searching for any credit cards that aren’t already cut up, inhaling whatever leftover champagne fumes might still remain in the countertop bottles.
Fumes are also what Eddie and Patsy are now running on, as they find themselves staring down the 20-year anniversary of exiting what The First Wives’ Club so memorably dubbed as the “district attorney” years. Utterly washed up, broke, and unable to promote even her one and only client, Lulu (among the many playing themselves in the film), Eddie hopes to parlay her career into a tell-all book, which she hasn’t written beyond dictating the words “blah, blah, blah” to her longsuffering personal assistant, Bubble (Jane Horrocks). Patsy, by virtue of her inability to care, is still holding onto her apparently low-paying gig as a fashion-magazine editor, but remains troubled by the looming threat to her ability to freeload indefinitely.
If the setup seems a little labored for a television show that succeeded best when it mirrored the same lazily entitled attitudes of its lead characters, that’s certainly not a unique phenomenon among sitcoms that have been spun off into feature films. A notable example from gay-cultish TV hits past: the 2006 feature version of Strangers with Candy. Much like Absolutely Fabulous, that comedy softened its source material’s rough edges almost out of necessity. It’s as if an inversion must take place: The bigger the screen and the bigger the budget, the smaller the facial tics.
Scaling back from the grotesque heights of these two shows makes sense, but it clipped the wings of the over-the-top Strangers with Candy, and it clips Eddie and Patsy’s wings too. Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie continues the narrative rather than rebooting it like the Amy Sedaris comedy did, but both films repeat or at least reference so many of the jokes that made the shows legendary that it isn’t exactly clear who the end products are meant to service: the die-hard fans who will get the references but come away feeling only half nourished, or those receiving their introductions to the franchises who will wonder what got everyone so fanatical about them in the first place?
Still, there’s something to be said for a summer movie that manages to cast virtually every post-menopausal comedienne in England. For a summer movie that finds a way to merge the mayhem more commonly associated with disaster movies with the fashion world. For a summer movie that, so far as men are concerned, mocks Jon Hamm’s virility and offers up Chris Colfer as an unapologetic misogynist hairdresser. For a summer movie that, without so much as a single gunshot or explosion, proves humanity is so last season.