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June 2010

St. Trinian's 2: The Legend Of Fritton's Gold

cast: Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, David Tennant, Gemma Arterton, and Talulah Riley

directors: Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson

102 minutes (12) 2009
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
EIV DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
review by Donald Morefield

St. Trinian's 2: The Legend Of Fritton's Gold

A serious problem with franchise restart, St. Trinian's (2007), was the dual role for Rupert Everett; in drag as eccentric headmistress Camilla Fritton while also playing Camilla's hapless brother Carnaby. Hogging limelight and screen time, boorish old queen Everett's whole performance is frightfully vain, shamelessly witless, blatantly monotonous, and simply dull. While he's in drag, he drags any potentially amusing farce down to levels of pantomime simplicity, decaying smart comedy routines into a pronounced tedium. The material deserved much better star casting and handling of its leading role. Try as he might, and whatever he does, Everett is not Alastair Sim!

Thankfully, perhaps, Everett's secondary role - as Carnaby - is entirely absent from this fairly run-of-the-mill and unwarranted sequel, which stoops to parody action movies, like X-Men 2 (commando raid on school), De Palma's Mission: Impossible (hi-tech theft operation), yet begins with pirate storytelling that provides a treasure hunt framing device for an obviously basic save-the-school main plot.

Between his school outings, co-director Oliver Parker made a CGI-enhanced, but unimaginative, version of Oscar Wilde's fable Dorian Gray, wallowing in decadent or gloom-laden fantasies instead of astutely exploring the classic story's psychological woes, amoral stress, and Faustian fissures of ageless immortality. There's really no evidence here that Parker learned anything new, about drama or tragedy - and how they relate to comedy, from tackling that Wilde adaptation.

Colin Firth reappears as Geoffrey, target for Camilla's vapid lust; and David Tennant (so, he quit Doctor Who for this?) plays the crooked Lord Pomfrey, chief misogynist of a secret society. As before, student bodies have varying degrees of sexiness, or teen-bait lack thereof - ranging from supermodel wannabes and blonde debutante candidates, to grungy goth chicks, relatively demure new heroine - Annabelle Fritton (Talulah Riley), and the inevitable chav brigade, leading the charge of bookworms, techies, and assorted tots.

There is no doubting the delectable yet unsophisticated charms of ex-head girl Kelly (former Bond girl Gemma Arterton), projecting effortless sex appeal whatever outfit she's poured into, while pop star turned model/ actress Sarah Harding (from Girls Aloud - who all appeared in the previous films as the 'school band') solos as Roxy, with rather less rock 'n' roll attitude than would seem to be a requirement for a girl of that name.

Celia Imrie returns as the matron but, whereas St. Trinian's was boosted by various star names and rising talents - Lena Headey, Anna Chancellor, Stephen Fry, Mischa Barton, Lily Cole, and Russell Brand - in some witty cameos, their absence amounts to a whole catalogue of losses that feels like too much empty hall space on the film's billing, and - sadly - the only notable addition to register of the remaining hangers-on is cute Zoe (Montserrat Lombard, who plays Shaz in Ashes To Ashes), somewhat lost among the hellions and wildcats here.

Despite a subplot's overly-theatrical suggestion to the contrary, this is not Shakespearen satire, but it sincerely attempts to recreate a unique, if not essentially timeless, milieu of peculiarly British cinematic farce. While thoroughly re-inventing, updating and modernising the original's appeal of bankrupt institutions, traditional class struggles, and earnestly romanticised adventures for a cadre of rebellious and ungovernable naughty schoolgirls, it remains only watchable nonsense. And, sadly, nothing more than that.

The anarchist collective of schoolgirls embark on a mission that hinges on references to numerous classic British comedies - including sub-cultural iconography of The Italian Job, so quite why it fails in nearly all of its ambitions is cause for some regret and concern. If Brits can't revamp this sort of thing to be more effective as comedy than its US style variant (of cheerleader movies), what chance have other home-grown movie remakes got?



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