I accept that I am not the target audience for a flick like St Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold (2009), and that this critique probably isn’t worth the pixels it’s printed on… but it’s cold in my room, and typing helps to keep my fingers from freezing, so I may as well tap something out on the keys before they go numb!
The first film may have had its flaws, but it did at least have some funny character moments and skits tied to the loose framework of its rambling story. This time around the plotting is a lot tighter, and the narrative flow seems a lot smoother, but this “progress” is made at the expense of the characters and the jokes. At first the writers appear to be setting up some potentially interesting arcs, as ‘Annabelle Fritton’ (Talulah Riley) finds herself thrown into the role of “Head Girl”, prompting accusations of nepotism and general resentment (her aunt does run the school, after all), while rebellious new girl ‘Roxy’ (Sarah Harding) threatens to turn the school’s rival cliques against each other in an effort to recruit her! All of that set-up is then promptly flushed down the crapper once the film’s actual plot kicks in, and everyone starts running around trying to track down a hidden hoard of pirate treasure! Which wouldn’t be so frustrating, if they weren’t wasting such an incredibly bright and talented young cast. I know that the original, old-timey series always sent the girls off on wacky adventures across the globe too… but they didn’t have such clearly defined characters, played by actresses of this calibre. Personally I’d much rather have seen the writers forget all the action-thriller arsing around, and just stick to a simple story about an anarchic “alternative” school, where the pupils are split into warring tribes, and all of the tension, drama and comedy comes from the internal politics, rather than external threats. Assuming they got me in to punch up the script, of course…
If forced to choose between the tribes, I’d have to say that the “Emos” were my favourite, with the “Ecos” coming a close second. Despite their strong objections to being called “Goths” in the previous film, the Emos’ new leader (‘Zoe’) arrives at school lying in a coffin in the back of a hearse… which is pretty much as Goth as it gets! Montserrat Lombard seems to be having fun with the role, but the writers’ characterisation is a little too wishy-washy to provide any real sense of malevolence or menace. Yes, she does build an electric chair for her science experiment, but she’s also afraid of graveyards and rats, and voluntarily takes on the “priest” role during an exorcism! Huh? I’d rather they’d run a little deeper into Addams Family territory (or even referred back to Searle’s original cartoons), and thrown some more macabre jokes out at the audience. And it still bugs me to see the Emos bopping away to generic pop music in the final celebratory scene… it’s just so out-of-character! In fact, everything about this film is rather generic and superficial, as if they’d aimed it squarely at the sort of teenage girls who can’t tell the difference between “P!nk” and “Punk”. And there is a difference, dammit! I only wish the writers and director had put as much thought and care into their work as the hair, make-up and wardrobe departments did.
Going back to the music thing… before I watched the film I was all set to hate on Harding, who is best known as a singer/lip-syncher with the prefabricated pop group Girls Aloud, but she actually acquits herself quite well as an actress, as far as I can tell. That said, her character is completely superfluous to the plot, so I’m still annoyed that she sucked so much screen time away from more experienced (and firmly established) cast members… such as the twins, Cloe Mackie & Holly Mackie, who didn’t seem to get any decent lines this time around, despite stealing so many scenes in the previous film. Juno Temple started strong, but then got rather lost in the rumpus as head Eco ‘Celia’. Meanwhile poor Tamsin Egerton did her best with a character who’d been reset to “dumb blonde” default mode, despite the progress she’d supposedly made at the end of the previous instalment. Again, it wouldn’t be quite so frustrating if these characters physically disappeared, but they don’t… you can see them there on-screen the whole way through… they just don’t say or do anything especially memorable. Everyone gets drowned out by the noise of the plot… but the plot doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t build to a satisfying, cathartic climax, so where does that leaves us? Up the Thames without a paddle, that’s where!
Closing thought: Consider the irony of a film with an overtly Feminist agenda being packaged in a case with only the male cast members credited on the front cover.