Patsy and Edina are in the movies, sweetie darling, and if that idea doesn't excite you - or you don't immediately drawl sweetie darling like you're Edina Monsoon - it's likely that the rest of this review will not be worth your time. (What is worth your time, though, is going back and watching the brilliant Brit show created by star Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French that has intermittently run on the BBC from 1992 to 2012. It's streaming on Hulu Plus.)
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is an hour and a half of total fan service to those who have followed the swinging lives of fashion publicist Edina (played by Saunders) and her celeb-shtupping, sometimes-employed best friend, Patsy (Joanna Lumley). For decades, they have drunkenly made disasters of their lives, only to be saved by coincidence, blind luck, or Edina's long-suffering daughter Saffron (Julia Sawalha), who is the dour Brit analog to Alex P. Keaton, the complete opposite of her mother.
The movie's plot is simply an excuse for Patsy and Edina to enter our lives again, to go gallivanting in gorgeous locales and wear ridiculous outfits.
Edina's house is possibly being repossessed, considering that the PR pro's only clients are Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton, the singer Lulu, and a "boutique vodka." At a fabulous - everything is always fabulous - party, Edina accidentally knocks supermodel Kate Moss into the Thames. She's arrested for Moss' murder, sending her, Patsy, and Edina's granddaughter Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness) into hiding in the South of France.
But it honestly doesn't matter what Patsy and Edina are doing because they're still being Patsy and Edina, two women who have never been afraid to behave badly and look a mess in service of their own narcissism.
The movie is a flurry of cameos (Jon Hamm, Game of Thrones' Gwendoline Christie, and Lulu are particularly great) and excellent one-liners mostly illustrating how entirely fatuous its two leads are. ("There was a time the zeitgeist blew through me," Edina says. "Now it's a tiny fart," Patsy replies.)
While Absolutely Fabulous might be impenetrable to those who don't know the TV show or who aren't as pop-culture- and trend-obsessed as the two main characters, the movie never feels outdated, as if it were desperately trying to be relevant nearly 25 years after the show first premiered. But that's because Patsy and Edina were never supposed to be relevant. They were always striving to be cool and young, refusing to grow old and passe in a corner of the culture that is obsessed with the current and new.
Unlike Zoolander, though, which has no love - and more important, no affection - for the culture it sends up, Absolutely Fabulous has always respected fashion and low pop culture.
There are some issues with AbFab: The Movie. A few comments about being transgender don't hit the mark, and the fashion-celeb cameos can be plodding. But it's such great fun to watch these incredible comedians inhabit these characters once more.
There's an exchange in the movie that perfectly points to why Absolutely Fabulous has endured for as long as it has. Lola asks why Eddie and Pats have stayed together for so long. She's met with a simple answer: "Because it's bloody good fun!"
*** (Out of four stars)
yDirected by Mandie Fletcher. With Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Kate Moss, Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness. Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.
yRunning time: 1 hour, 30 mins.
yParent's guide: R (for language, drug use, and general fabulousness).
yPlaying at: Ritz Five.