While attempting to woo Kate Moss as a client, disaster-magnet PR Edina Monsoon (Saunders) accidentally knocks the supermodel into the Thames. Hounded by press and police, she flees to the south of France with reprobate BFF Patsy Stone (Lumley) and granddaughter Lola (Donaldson-Holness).
British sitcoms face particular challenges when they attempt the big screen, since the charm of our comedy is that it tends to be small scale, low-budget and full of interestingly unglamorous people. Ab Fab largely escapes that parochial feel thanks to its implausibly wealthy fashion setting, yet this chaotic stumble onto the big screen somehow still comes close to disaster.
Patsy and Edina's fizzing chemistry carries us along even when the plot meanders.
A one-two of fashion shows set up the plot and bristle with celebrity cameos. But as with Zoolander 2, quantity does not guarantee quality. Given that the stars involved seem willing to send themselves up it's a shame that it feels haphazardly improvised on the day, to forgettable effect. It's not until the crowd thins later in the movie that the celeb gags hit at all (full marks, Joan Collins and Jean Paul Gaultier).
Luckily, things pick up when the film quits wasting time on supporting players and a few misguided attempts at genuine emotion, and turns to its dastardly duo of leads. Saunders' Edina is a reliable buffoon, a fashion victim "trying to do [her] mindlessness" and eternally out of step with the times. Lumley's Patsy, if she has changed at all, has become even more of a scene-stealer, and showcases a morning routine of self-administered botox and rousing recommendations of "fetus blood and a spritz of after-birth" as a beauty regime.
Their fizzing chemistry carries us briskly along even when the plot meanders again on the Riviera. Saunders' script is filled with enough genuine zingers – the best of them delightfully mean – that even a high rate of misfires and an ending nicked from Some Like It Hot can't bog it down completely. This is at its best when it focuses on two women behaving badly, downing Bolly with fags in their hands and drugs in their hair. The laughs come and go, but Edina and Patsy are classics.
It's scatty, scrappy and thoroughly OTT, but then that's like the characters themselves.