No sooner is Annabelle Fritton (Riley) dumped at her aunt Camillas (Everett) notorious girls school, St Trinians, by her unscrupulous father Carnaby (also Everett), than financial woes and a hardline Education Minister (Firth) seem to spell the end for
It’s been 53 years since Ealing Studios made The Belles Of St Trinian’s and 27 since Wildcats Of St Trinian’s disgraced itself and all but buried the franchise. Now the hockey sticks and school uniforms have been dusted off and a new team has attempted to make the unruly girls appeal to a new generation.
Can they make it work for ‘the yoof of today’? Well, beyond the excuse of “it’s for kids”, this vague remake of ‘Belles’ has numerous problems, but most of them are the fault of crew rather than cast. Here’s another British film (part of a worrying trend of late) that is poorly lit, poorly shot, and sometimes poorly edited. The technical ineptitude throws off the comic timing and jokes fall flat, while bad framing betrays the film’s limited budget.
And so it goes for most of the first act… until Colin Firth shows up and suddenly everything begins to fit into place. Rupert Everett (reprising Alistair Simm’s glorious turn from ‘Belles’ with dual roles as twins Camilla and Carnaby Fritton, headmistress of the school and her cad twin brother), suddenly has the right foil to work with and Firth’s subplot also allows the girls to get busy with mischief, picking up the pace.
As with the source material, most of the girls only get a few lines; Talulah Riley is fine in the lead as Carnaby’s daughter Annabelle but for entertainment value, top honours go to Chloe and Holly Mackie as twin junior terrors with a penchant for C4. Many ‘adults’ get the same – Caterina Murino, Celia Imrie, Lena Headey and Toby Jones among them – are asked a lot and given little, although the ubiquitous Russell Brand (who can’t act, but that’s not why he’s here) gets a bigger slice of screentime as Flash Harry.
This St Trinian’s 2.0 does manage to fuse an understanding of what made the originals great with a modern feel - the writers have fulfilled their end of the bargain, even tweaking some of the weaker points of the original story - but they and the cast have been let down by some dreadfully clunky filmmaking.
The target audience - pre-teen girls - arent going to notice the many shortfalls behind the camera. What theyll enjoy, regardless of quality, is some naughtiness true to the spirit of the series, Russell Brand and Girls Aloud. For the rest of us its to