This hapless attempt to revive a popular lowbrow midcentury British franchise is technically based upon 1954’s hit The Belles of St. Trinian’s—itself inspired by the postwar gallows humor of Ronald Searle’s far more anarchic and downright grim cartoons skewering all-girl boarding-school antics. But those hoping for a sly mash-up of Lindsay Anderson’s If... and a Spice Girls reunion will instead find a lazy Disney Channel one-off, replete with clique rosters (posh totties, wallflowers, emos and geeks therein) and an antediluvian scenario involving sneaky underdog tricks to save a boarding school from financial ruin.
Despite a plucky soundtrack and frantic editing, the movie shows otherwise wan interest in the gaggle of faux-transgressive bad girls who bare their dulled claws at England’s establishment ethos, as though that notion alone were somehow fresh and cheeky. Aside from the school’s dire funding situation and the conceit of an actor playing dual roles, one of which is in drag (Everett dons the skirt, following in original star Alastair Sim’s pumps), the reboot is mostly interested in references to reality television. A running joke is the plethora of CCTV devices throughout the school; the students’ blithe acceptance of invasive monitoring speaks volumes more about the zeitgeist than anything the filmmakers ever intended.—Stephen Garrett
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