Directed by Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson
If you think the pinnacle of comedy is the sight of suave British actor Rupert Everett in pitiful drag, well, you’ll still probably be bored to conniptions by St. Trinian’s. Released two years ago in the UK, this high-spirited but utterly empty ode to schoolgirl skullduggery is an update on the long forgotten 1954 Alistair Sim romp The Belles of St. Trinian’s, itself adapted from Ronald Searle’s WWII-era comic. No wonder this flimsy nonsense is more stale and flavorless than re-refried Delta fare.
Everett plays Camilla Fritton, the frumpy yet randy headmistress of the titular school, a countryside sinkhole with an abundance of cobwebs and skeleton fragments. The potty-mouthed nurses drink martinis! The youngest kids take anger management and shoot the heads off toy ducks! The school dog humps visitors’ legs! The dog gets hurled out of a window!
Anyway, for no discernible reason, Fritton’s prissy niece (Talulah Riley) is forced by her father (also played by Everett) to enroll at the school, and is met with expected disdain from her rebellious peers. But after proving her mischievous mettle in a chaotic field hockey game, Riley gets made over into a sultry vamp by some classmates, who thus accept her. Riley in turn grows to appreciate all the school’s unseemly goings-on and, in the face of shutdown threats by the miserable Minister of Education (miserable-looking Colin Firth, who should know better), helps spearhead a high-concept heist to save it.
St. Trinian’s is so uninspired that not even the innately hilarious Russell Brand—as a shady bootlegger who buys Chem lab-brewed vodka from the girls—can spice up the limp proceedings. Directors Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson don’t make the faintest attempt to breathe life into their cliched characters, as the requisite cliques of nerds, pop culture-obsessed airheads and Goths (or, as one character so wittily calls them, “emos”) come off as indistinguishable. Despite their presumptuousness, the vixens are as uninterested in sneaking off with male counterparts as the bookworm preteens; the nerds advocate blowing things up and other wrongdoings as much as the tough girls, and so on. As a result, the kids are both unsympathetic and dull; the audience is called on to root for ciphers that cheat, and for a school that turns a blind eye. The whole affair makes Mean Girls look like the epitome of fresh.
Opens October 9