x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

St Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold

The latest version of a famous series is no better - and no worse - than the earlier remake.

First published in 1942, Ronald Searle's comic strips about the anarchic antics of the rebellious young girls at a fictional English boarding school spawned a string of much-loved books and films during the 1950s and 1960s. Rebooting this dusty old comedy franchise in 2007, the producer-director duo Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson scored a domestic box-office smash, confounding the numerous critics unimpressed by their lively but lowbrow efforts. A sequel was thus inevitable, and here it is - no worse than its predecessor, but, sadly, no better either. The preposterous plot involves buried treasure, pirates, secret agents and dramatic revelations at Shakespeare's favourite London theatre, the Globe. The jokes frequently fall flat but at least they arrive thick and fast alongside tongue-in-cheek nods to the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter blockbusters. Indeed, former Potter co-star and BBC television's Doctor Who, David Tennant, pops up here as a villainous English aristocrat. Once again Rupert Everett steals the film in multiple roles, most notably as the school's horsey and eccentric headmistress, a homage to the recurring presence of veteran screen comedian Alastair Sim in the original film series. Colin Firth, Gemma Arterton and Girls Aloud member Sarah Harding also revive their two-dimensional characters. The drawback with remaking St Trinian's in the 21st century soon becomes clear: in a less stuffy and class-ridden Britain, the notion of well-bred schoolgirls behaving badly no longer delivers much comedy shock value. In fairness, Parker and Thompson recognise this problem, diluting the original's bawdy and irreverent humour in favour of family-friendly farce and a worthy final message about Girl Power. There is little subtlety, wit or originality here. But Fritton's Gold still contains some occasional fun moments, chiefly thanks to the strenuous efforts of its starry cast. A further sequel is already in development - you have been warned.