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Friendship Fuels 'Absolutely Fabulous'

The long-running sitcom's fans will find lots to love in new movie

(Video) Absolutely Fabulous Movie Trailer:  Appropriate for their big screen debut, Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone (Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley) are still oozing glitz and glamour, living the high life they are accustomed to: shopping, drinking and clubbing their way around London.

Rating: R

Run time: 1 hour 31 minutes

Stars: Joanna Lumley, Jennifer Saunders

Director: Mandie Fletcher

It matters little, I suspect, what film critics think about Absolutely Fabulous, the new movie based on the long-running British TV sitcom. The show's millions of fans have already taken to heart Edina and Patsy, the booze-guzzling, coke-inhaling, self-obsessed London fashion mavens at its center — a pair who, even as middle age has come and gone, cling with maniacal desperation to delusions of youth, vitality and eternal trendiness.

It is hard to imagine less admirable protagonists — yet they are undeniably appealing, at least as played by Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley. After more than a decade of playing Edina and Patsy, the pair now fit into the roles as snugly as swollen feet in a pair of Giuseppe Zanotti sandals.

Edina (Saunders, who also wrote the script) is a longtime publicist whose sole remaining client is the 1960s singer Lulu (remember "To Sir, With Love"?). Patsy (Lumley) is only slightly more current, still producing glitzy high-fashion events but clearly skating near the edges of relevance.

Prior to one of these celebrity-studded to-dos, Edina gets wind that supermodel Kate Moss, who will be in attendance, is looking for new representation. Seized by the unfathomable notion that Moss would ever sign with her, Edina charges toward the model like a Stella McCartney–wearing water buffalo — accidentally pushing her over a ledge and into the dark, cold waters of the River Thames.

The next morning, all of England is mourning the apparent death of Moss, whose body has yet to be recovered from the river. For Edina and Patsy, a fit of drug-fueled paranoia ensues, leading them to go on the lam in the south of France, where, Edina happily exclaims, "Everyone's a criminal!"

Jennifer Saunders as 'Edina' and Joanna Lumley as 'Patsy' in the film ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE

David Appleby/Twentieth Century Fox

Jennifer Saunders as Edina and Joanna Lumley as Patsy

Absolutely Fabulous' threadbare story unravels rather quickly, almost as if by design, thereby allowing Edina and Patsy to wallow in their glittery lack of self-awareness unencumbered by the limitations of plot and continuity. That's all for the best: It is the pair's unending devotion to sustaining each other's delusions and their damn-the-torpedoes determination to attain a happy ending — at least their muddled vision of what a happy ending looks like — that drives the movie.

This may be a funhouse mirror image of friendship, yet no matter how badly the chips fall for them, Edina and Patsy never for one moment fail to support each other. They may personify a phone book-length litany of bad qualities, but disloyalty is not among them.

Loyal fans of the TV series will be glad to see so many of the show's regulars on hand, particularly Julia Sawalha as Edina's long-suffering daughter, Saffy. Her levelheaded exasperation is an important counterbalance to the older women's tendency toward anarchy, but it is nevertheless difficult to reconcile Saffy's existence in the same universe as Edina, much less the same gene pool.

The incorporation of other characters from the series is less successful. No doubt the faithful would have been outraged by the deletion of Jane Horrocks as Edina's borderline deranged personal assistant Bubble, but while the running gag of having Bubble wear increasingly outrageous outfits probably built very nicely over a decade-long television run, in a 90-minute movie it's little more than a distraction. Likewise, Edina's mother (June Whitfield) and ex-husband Marshall (Christopher Ryan) pop up, but their involvement is no more consequential than that of dozens of fashion industry icons such as Jean-Paul Gaultier and actors such as Jon Hamm who make fleeting cameo appearances. You don't have to be a fan of Absolutely Fabulous the TV show to enjoy Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, thanks to the genuine affection the lead characters — and presumably the actresses who play them — hold for each other. Unlike the instantly disposable fashions on display throughout, true friendship never goes out of style.

Bill Newcott is a writer, editor and movie critic for AARP Media.