St Trinian's, the infamous school for 'young ladies' is facing a financial crisis. The new Education Minister is an old flame of the headmistress and is determined to bring discipline and order to the anarchic school. A motley crew of teachers and ruthless pupils join forces to steal the famous painting "Girl With A Pearl Earring" from the National Gallery. But can their combined cunning, girlish wiles and total lack of shame win the day before the authorities close them down for good?
The “St Trinian’s” series about life at a bizarre girls’ boarding school began with Ronald Searle’s cartoons during World War II and were subsequently made into four hit feature films in ‘50s and ‘60s. I have not seen any of the originals, but I doubt given the longevity of their popularity, neither the cartoons nor the films were as pointedly dumb and humourless as this latest 2007 revamp.
Produced and directed by Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson (the team behind “An Ideal Husband” and “The Importance of Being Earnest”), “St Trinian’s” is less a movie than a series of MTV sketches set to bubblegum pop tunes cobbled together under a semblance of a plot. In fact, the story itself seems to be made up haphazardly of two distinct parts.
The first half plays like an introduction to the school and its riotous acts, seen through the eyes of newcomer Annabelle (Tatulah Riley). At St. Trinian’s, instead of languages, math or science, the girls learn how to shoot rubber duckies, make vodka in the chemistry lab or talk their way out of a drug deal (not exactly approved curriculum by any standards, you can be sure.)
As cleverly subversive as this may sound, the script by Piers Ashworth and John Moorcroft fails to live up to its promise by glossing over all of its potentially witty ideas. Indeed, they are simply reduced to juvenile shenanigans, acts of rebellion for the mere sake of rebellion. What’s more, directors Parker and Thompson are just as content to pander to the childish by amping up the slapstick for laughs.
Hence devoid of wit, “St Trinian’s” unfolds tediously that very likely demanded its more action-packed second half. Here the girls suddenly turn into master thieves, saving their school from bankruptcy by attempting to steal a famous painting from the National Gallery. Even if you accept this clearly preposterous premise, there is no way you can ignore its slipshod pacing, one that bears no hint of buildup, comedy or action-wise.
Pity also the ensemble cast of Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Lena Headey and Stephen Fry. Each of their characters is a mere sideshow to the wholly uninteresting girls of St Trinian’s. And while a generous amount of makeup has been used to differentiate one girl from the other, you’re unlikely to be able to tell them apart except for Annabelle and the Head Girl (played by Gemma Arterton). The only saving grace here is watching Rupert Everett’s versatility as he effortlessly slips into dual roles as Annabelle’s father and St. Trinian’s female headmistress.
If St Trinian’s ever gave you the impression that it was hip, cool and wild, well I can assure you it certainly is not. Yes, as one who has gone through the gates of this dull and dreary affair, I’ll say that this is one school you won’t mind skipping.
This Region 3 DVD packs several extras that are just as unworthy of your time as the feature film. The first is a 2 minute-plus Music Video featuring the girls of St Trinian’s set to the song “Uh Oh We’re In Trouble”. Then there’s a 30-minute Behind The Scenes feature which stitches together various takes of key scenes without any voiceover.
There’s also some NG Footage which is perhaps a collection of the most unfunny bloopers I’ve seen. The Cast Interview with the main stars such as Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Lena Headey and Stephen Fry is another dreary affair chopped up into topical sections for each star.
Finally, there are also some Deleted Scenes and a trailer that’s probably the best thing here (because it saves you from watching the movie).
The disc comes with an option of Dolby Digital 2.0 or Dolby Digital 5.1- choose the latter only if you like those bubblegum pop tunes so much you wish to put them on surround. Picture looks just fine with no visible defects.
Review by Gabriel Chong
Posted on 2 July 2009