Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley in 'Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie'

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“It’s a film, Eddie. A feature film.” “What’s that, darling? Something with sprockets? Crawls through a projector . . . ?” “That’s yesterday, Eddie. Today it’s all digital. No projector noise, no beams filled with ciggy smoke. You see and hear everything. You can hear every pop, fizz and champagne bubble of audience laughter.” “And was there any, darling? At the press show?” “They didn’t have a press show, Ed, don’t you remember? We all had to go to the gala premiere. All of us including the snot-noses.” “Oh God” (falling out of a taxi). “Yes, darling, now I remember. Everything comes back. What have the snot-noses said?”

That’s coming up now. And yes, eager not to expose Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie to an exclusive screening for snot-nose critics, the distributors premiered the film — plus celebs and whoopee — at the Odeon Leicester Square, London’s flagship cinema. As soon as the lights dimmed the audience roared. When Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley spoke their first words the audience roared. They roared at the wall-to-wall guest cameos — Lulu, Kate Moss, Stella McCartney, Joan Collins — and the pratfalls and potty one-liners.

In the first half-hour they roared a lot. Then the film settled into a steadier inanity — or were we all just worn out? — as Eddie and Patsy flee London for the south of France. Eddie is wanted for murdering a famous supermodel. Nice is in high season. England hasn’t yet lost to Iceland in the Stade de Désespoir.

The film is sometimes funny. It’s a must for junkies of the TV series. But the script and story keep collapsing like the heroines. The lady next to me, after her first game guffaws, laughed loudly once, I think, with me, when Patsy is tasered by a flight attendant after smoking in a plane loo. “You don’t get that on British Airways,” she says, horizontally but wistfully. At the end we trouped out feeling blitzkrieged. Not unhappy exactly. More as if we’d spent the evening being tasered, semi-painlessly, on a long, long flight to nowhere new, if likable enough to re-glimpse through the clouds of time.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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