Thursday, December 27, 2007

ST TRINIAN'S - clearly leery, but still rather fun

ST TRINIAN'S is a movie that is sure to provoke outrage and rightly so. After all, there is something leery and pervy about getting a bunch of teenage girls dressed up in mini-skirted, suspender-ed school uniforms. Added to this, half the jokes are about fellatio and the other half are about illegal substance abuse. Against such a backdrop, the script-writers lame attempts to throw in a one-liner about how "clever is cool" seems a pretty thin cover. More admirable and endemic to the plot is the idea that ST TRINIAN'S is the last bastion of free thinking in a country of league tables, SATs and the National Curriculum. Laudable stuff.

The key point is that, as politically incorrect as ST TRINIAN'S is, it's also a lot of fun. Indeed, far more fun than I had expected. The script is genuinely funny, the visual humour and witty one-liners well observed. The film has a lot of energy and the caper is engaging. The ends all tie up and a good time is had by all. The plot sees the infamous girls fight off a twin threat to their beloved school. First, the government is sending in a ruthless Minister, Geoffrey Thwaites (Colin Firth) to reform Britain's most anarchic, under-performing school. At the same time, the headmistress is in danger of losing the school unless she can repay the Bank £500,000. So the girls decide to nick The Girl With The Pearl Ear-ring from the National Gallery and fence it the headmistress' scoundrelous brother - a Mayfair art dealer - via their shifty mate Flash Harry (Russell Brand). They do so by cheating their way to the final of a school quiz, which is held in the National Gallery.

In particular, I loved Rupert Everett in drag as ST TRINIAN's headmistress. There is something simply delicious in seeing him camp across the grounds in a lurid pink jersey-suit topped of with a Hermes scarf. And the way in which he/she vamps at Colin Firth's stuffy New Labour Education minister is pure joy! Jodie Whitaker (VENUS) is also fantastically fun as the school's chav secretary - just watch her dancing to the final song from GIRLS ALOUD. Stephen Fry, Celia Imrie and Toby Jones (INFAMOUS) are all good value in very small parts as are the very under-used/under-rated Fenella Woolgar (BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS) as the gun-toting PE teacher and Lucy Punch (BEING JULIA) as the Minister's daughter and Cheltenham Ladies College hockey captain.

In such a busy, riotous ensemble piece many actors fall by the wayside. Lena Headey (300) is worst served as the geeky new teacher. Mischa Barton is perfectly fine in her cameo, but the cameo seems utterly redundant to all but those marketing the film to US distributors.

Still, all-in-all, and despite the suspect sexual politics, ST TRINIAN'S is a good solid piece of light entertainment. My final observation is that, given the content, the BFI's 12A rating seems a trifle generous. Parents of young teens might want to vet the movie before letting their younger offspring loose on it.

P.S. Did I forget to mention the awesome two-tone score?

ST TRINIAN'S is on release in the UK.

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