Earlier this summer, I heard some movie pundits sniff that when Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie came out, it would be a flop, because it wouldn’t have a laugh-track like the series does. Well, guess what geniuses? It does have a laugh-track: We call it an audience. The chuckles came fast and furious during this 90-minute, surprisingly gorgeous and whiz-bang confection, which relies on comedy largely provided by two ladies — one age 58 (Jennifer Saunders, who also wrote the screenplay) and another (Joanna Lumley) age 70. 70! And still with the comic timing of Amy Schumer.
Now, it probably doesn’t hurt to be familiar with Edina (Saunders), a public relations professional, and Pats (Lumley), the fashion editor at a high-end magazine, and how they have boozed their way through 35 years of friendship. They’re both terrible parents, terrible role models, alcoholic narcissists … and endlessly entertaining. All they lightness of their lives, however, come crashing down when Eddy’s clients dry up, her ex-husband stops her alimony and she, well, possibly murders Kate Moss.
The plot, though, is hardly the point. It’s the physical humor and absurdist digs at pop culture (Jerry Hall, talking for hours about Chanel on the red carpet; Jon Hamm, regretting losing his virginity to Pats 30 years ago, yet still unable to resist her; Pats again, dressing up as a man … and looking remarkably like Pierce Brosnan in the process) that fuels the fun. Even those unexposed to AbFab (especially gay audiences, for whom the tone seems perfectly tailored) should enjoy this breezy summer delight. Drink up, darlings! (Read our interview with Saunders and Lumley in this week’s Dallas Voice.)
From one absurdity to another, and once again written by a cast member. Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty, scribbled out the screenplay for Star Trek Beyond, the third in the rebooted movie franchise, based on the cult series (which turns 50 this year). There are jokes here, too, but not enough to really distract us from the sloppiness of the production, a visually muddy and convoluted mess that does a disservice to the series.
I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of the reboot anyway. The first one, called just Star Trek, restarted all the characters on a brand-new timeline (never one of my favorite gimmicks), which meant they could reinvent the characters any way they wanted (Spock dates Uhura!), but still get the benefit of Leonard Nimoy cameos. The second film, Into Darkness, merely was another timeline trick, basically remaking Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which was itself based on the TV series. Beyond also treads old ground … this time, sort of mirroring the plot of the Next Generation film, Insurrection (which, like Khan, depends on a madman who spends decades seeking revenge while bathing in the fountain of youth). The original series managed 76 episodes without really repeating itself; can’t the movies get through three?
Justin Lin is the director this time out, and exposition isn’t one of his strong suits. He overloads the screen with so many crazy camera angles, accented by ear-splitting sound effects that drown out much of the dialogue and an underlit set that makes the film seem murky and confusing, that you can’t really follow what’s going on. Something about an ancient relic. Something about an amazing weapon. Hard to follow. But ask me to summarize the plots and motivations of any of the original six films, and I can cite you chapter and verse.
And yet… I won’t say “Don’t see this.” The characters have become iconic over the decades, and there’s something to be said for discovering things still. (Sulu, we find out, is gay and has a daughter.) Chris Pine’s Capt. Kirk seems more diplomatic than hot-headed Shatner, and Zachary Quinto’s Spock is always fun to explore. Trekkies — and trust me, I am one — will think of it like returning to visit old friends. But that’s something that happens at reunions: A dozen times in, and you realize you’re all telling each other the same old stories. It gets boring.