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Review: ‘Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie': Bloody good summer fun

“Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie”
Joanna Lumley, left, and Jennifer Saunders in “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.”
(David Appleby / Twentieth Century Fox)

In “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie” a sensible young woman asks her hard-partying grandmother to explain the endurance of a decades-long friendship, a seemingly unbreakable bond forged on champagne and mischief.

“Because it’s bloody good fun,” her grandmother answers, matter-of-factly.

That’s as good a reason as any for a lifelong friendship — and a summer movie.

Like the BBC sitcom that inspired it, “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie” is a raucously funny, often endearing, subversively feminist, bloody good time.

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The movie’s plot — thin as a summer caftan — follows aging BFFs Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) as they attempt to revive Edina’s foundering publicity career. When, in her boorish enthusiasm to woo Kate Moss as a client, Edina accidentally knocks the supermodel into the Thames, the duo flee from justice and the breathless English press to south of France, providing an excuse for some glorious, wish fulfilling set pieces along the sparkling French Riviera.

Directed by Mandie Fletcher, from a script by Saunders, who also wrote the “Absolutely Fabulous” TV show that aired sporadically from 1992 to 2012, the movie reunites much of the show’s cast, including Julia Sawalha as Edina’s frumpy, practical daughter, Saffron, and June Whitfield as her tart mom. The film also introduces some welcome new players, including Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness as Lola, Edina’s skeptical granddaughter, and “Glee’s” Chris Colfer as her enabling hair and makeup artist, and stuffs in satisfying celebrity cameos, including Moss — cool perfection as the object of English adoration — and Jon Hamm, the uncomfortable object of Patsy’s ardor.

But the real joy in “Absolutely Fabulous,” as ever, comes from the charisma between Saunders and Lumley. Long before “Bridesmaids” or “Broad City,” or the refreshing female friendships on display in recent movies like “Ghostbusters” and “Love & Friendship,” Edina and Patsy were the kind of naughty co-conspirators who managed to mock the absurd cultural expectations of women just as they scrambled to attain them.

In the movie, a sweet vulnerability shines through their desperation to remain hip, young and slender, as in one scene early on, when they awake from a night of booze-fueled mischief, makeup smeared and hair askew, Edina, feeling fat, averts her eyes from the mirrors.

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“Darling you don’t need those,” Patsy says, jabbing her her own face with a Botox needle. “I am your mirror.”

With scenes shot during London fashion week, on yachts and in luxury hotels, the movie liberates the characters from the studio setting of the TV show into the world of their fantasies.

The witty, over-the-top costumes by Rebecca Hale reveal the women trying to adjust to changing bodies and changing times. And sometimes they’re rejecting change entirely, as when Eddy wears a giant, bedazzled broach that says, “Reality TV Makes Me Sad.”

rebecca.keegan@latimes.com

“Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie”

Rated: Rated R for language including sexual references, and some drug use

Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

Playing: In general release

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