(updated 10/09/09)

Official Site

St. Trinian's


New York Times (Oct 9, 2009, by Jeannette Catsoulis)

“Don’t you think I make a remarkable queen?” inquires Rupert Everett midway through “St. Trinian’s,” a stunningly witless revival of the infamous British film series about a girls’ boarding school. Playing both a headmistress and her crooked brother (roles originated by Alastair Sim in “The Belles of St. Trinian’s” in 1954), Mr. Everett spends half the movie in drag and most of it in groaning double entendres. Fortunately the astonishing lack of subtitles — I was mystified more than once, and I’m British — will ensure that American audiences are spared suffering along with comprehension.

Created by the cartoonist Ronald Searle, the St. Trinian’s pupils — gamblers, extortionists, delinquents and slatterns — are a far cry from Miss Jean Brodie’s “gerrrls.” This time their antisocial gifts are harnessed to an unruly script involving an art gallery heist concocted to save their beloved school from foreclosure. While the girls nab a Vermeer, Mr. Everett’s headmistress — mastering teeth that would have defeated Seabiscuit — is attempting to nab Colin Firth’s minister of education, a squirmy flirtation enacted to the strains of “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” and the enthusiastic leg-humping of a terrier named Mr. Darcy.

Feebly directed by Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson, “St. Trinian’s” features young people making old jokes and talented performers making fools of themselves. At least the terrier’s career didn’t suffer: she was named best comedy canine at the 2008 Fido Awards.

Boston Globe (Oct 9, 2009, by Wesley Morris) - 2-1/2 out of 4 stars

Sadly, the movie is a zoo. The ditzes cheat their way through a quiz tournament as a distraction while their fellow students ransack the museum. It’s impossible to impose order on the proceedings, so the film’s two directors (Oliver Parker, Barnaby Thompson) and writers (Nick Moorcroft and Piers Ashworth) don’t even try. “St. Trinian’s’’ is based on the drawings of English cartoonist Ronald Searle; his irreverence has made it to the finished product but his skill has not.

Firth is acting with his buttocks clenched and his nose in the air again. His job here involves enduring assorted humiliations (falling from windows, Ms. Fritton’s sexual advances). Mission accomplished. The soundtrack is sugared with songs by Lily Allen, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and singers whose records sound like theirs.

The movie was a hit in England last year, spawning an immediate sequel (brace yourselves). <b>And as shoddy as the movie is, most 13-year-old girls won’t be able to help themselves. “St. Trinian’s’’ is kookier and cruder than what they’re watching at home. After 15 minutes, their parents will know what they’ve signed on for: the longest Cyndi Lauper video ever made.

Boston Herald (Oct 9, 2009, by James Verniere) - B+

October’s guilty-pleasure prize goes to ‘St. Trinian’s,” the flawed, but naughty-schoolgirls-in-uniform-resplendent new installment in the series that began with a 1954 British hit inspired by cartoons of Ronald Searle....“It’s like Hogwarts for pikeys,” exclaims horrified new student Annabelle Fritton (the fetching Talulah Riley), a line that dares to embrace Anglo-slang at Americans’ expense (“pikey” is more or less the Brit version of “white trash”).

If you know and love “St. Trinian’s” films (I discovered by accident that Eric Idle of “Monty Python” married one of the original “St. Trinian’s” girls), rediscover them. If you don’t, but you love British humor, discover these films for the first time and have a ball.

NY Post (Oct 9, 2009, by Lou Lumenick) - 1-1/2 out of 4 stars

Bad in ways that are almost endearing, "St. Trinian's" does offer the spectacle of Rupert Everett mincing around in drag as a headmistress bedeviled by Colin Firth, as an education minister and former lover who wants to shut down her out-of-control school.

Any UK farce that also offers the witty Stephen Fry as the host of a quiz show in which tweens try to rig the results to save their school cannot easily be ignored. And that's not even mentioning take-no-prisoners Brit comic Russell Brand as a faux-art dealer who gets into some frisky high jinks with the un-PC girls.

Directed with blowtorch subtlety by Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson, the fitfully funny "St. Trinian's" is nominally based on a 1954 arthouse smash (inspired by Ronald Searle cartoons) that haunted TV screens for decades and inspired six sequels.

The Star-Ledger (Oct 8, 2009, by Stephen Whitty) -  1-1/2 stars

The original “St. Trinian’s” films, dating back to the 1950s, were chapters in a hugely popular British series featuring a run-down school for girls and its irrepressible young charges.

But “naughty schoolgirl” means something quite different now. So the new trip to Trinian’s features drunken teenagers, phone sex, an amorous dog, nude webcam spying, oral sex jokes, anal sex jokes and psychedelic mushrooms. It’s a brand new world. It’s the same bad rating system, though, in which this sort of thing is stamped and approved for 13-year-olds—even with a scene of a teen using a bathroom quickie to get information out of an adult. Charming.

The original films have clearly retained a nostalgic appeal for Baby-Boomer Brits; they must, because so many famous ones have signed on for this reboot, in a variety of silly roles. Colin Firth, for example, plays the nasty minister of education, who wants to shut Trinian’s down; Toby Jones is a gym coach: and Stephen Fry plays himself. Even Rupert Everett turns up as the school’s headmistress, replacing the original in-drag Alastair Sim.

It’s an impressive bit of slumming by some name actors revisiting a childhood favorite — a bit as if Hollywood had somehow convinced William Hurt to help restart “Lost in Space,” or Robert De Niro to do a Bullwinkle movie. Oh, wait.

Anyway, the performers seem game enough. Firth, in particular, appears to be having a wonderful time looking ridiculous and spoofing his stock romantic BBC image every chance he gets. (That dog continually climbing up his leg is named, of course, Darcy.)

Everett, however, isn’t nearly enough fun as the headmistress, and the girls are mostly interchangeable. Only Gemma Arterton, as the lead troublemaker, stands out, partly thanks to her patent-leather Louise Brooks bob and mostly because she looks a bit beyond all this. (She is, too: She recently appeared as Strawberry Fields in “Quantum of Solace.”)

Nor do the film’s directors, Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson, help much. Obviously frantic, they pad the film with not one but two schemes to keep the school running—plus a makeover sequence and obligatory shots of the girls walking toward the camera in slow motion while yet another pop song plays. You have to move those soundtrack units.

I suppose there are lessons to be learned here, particularly for American tweens. Unlike the films Britain makes consciously for export, there’s been no attempt to tone down accents or slang for us Yanks—your 13-year-old may come away from this talking about “chavs” and “pikeys” and “posh totties.”

But most of “St. Trinian’s” translates about as well as eel pie. And the rest of the education it provides is quite a bit more suspect.

Variety (Dec 27, 2007, by Derek Elley)

Blighty's most anarchic, un-PC girls' school
created by cartoonist Ronald Searle, and the inspiration for five movies between 1954 and 1980rides again in 21st century makeover "St. Trinian's." Mildly amusing result, with plenty of slack in its 100 minutes, should work OK with its target audience of female Brit tweenies, who won't notice the pic's shoddy technical package, sloppy direction and the way the original films' antiestablishment tone has morphed into a celebration of dumbed-down "yoof" culture. Pic opened last weekend to $3.7 million in the U.K. over three days.

Original series of movies, all created by the writing-helming team of Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, started in 1954 with "The Belles of St. Trinian's," still the best in a very uneven bunch. Series showcased the cream of Brit comic talent and character actors of the period
from Alistair Sim, through Joyce Grenfell, to Sid James and George Coleand though the latest outing does include some contempo comedians (Rupert Everett, Russell Brand, Stephen Fry), the lack of real star power in this department is painfully obvious.

For "St. Trinian's" aficionados, this one is on par with the fourth outing (and the first in color), "The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery" (1966), with the late, great Frankie Howerd in the lead. [plot synopsis omitted]

Lacking any really sharp dialogue, the film just about goes the distance by juggling its characters in short, sketch-like scenes and inserting occasional musical montages. But beyond Everett's labored drag act (he's made up to look like veteran Brit TV presenter Esther Rantzen) and Firth's unsmiling pol (mainly the butt of in-jokes about the actor's career), none of the other characters get much of a chance to register.

Experienced thesps like Celia Imrie, Anna Chancellor and Lena Headey get little screen time as teaching staff. Among the pupils, Arterton comes across strongest, but it's actually little blonde twins Cloe and Holly Mackie who manage to catch the real Searle spirit as a pair of pesky first-years.

Sole standout on the tech side is costume designer Rebecca Hale's work, which cleverly integrates the traditional Searle look of the girls' duds with modern yoof fashion. Otherwise, tech package is bargain-basement, with cold, washed-out color processing, so-so editing and chaotic, poorly directed camerawork.

The Times (Dec 22, 2007, by Cosmo Landesman) - 2 out of 5 stars

This is the sort of little British film conceived by producers and executed by directors who, bereft of any original ideas in their empty little heads, believe it would be fun to take a fondly remembered film (or even television series) and do a modern remake. You can see why it’s an attractive proposition: a low budget, as well as a high media profile for a product that has instant brand recognition and pushes the buttons of nostalgia and patriotic pride. Film-makers also seem to think that if you follow in the great tradition of Ealing comedies, somehow your film will acquire greatness by association. It never does. Even the Coen brothers had a go, with their remake of The Ladykillers, and failed.

This is a classic slice of warmed-over, outdated Ealing comedy rubbish. It’s the familiar story of St Trinian’s, that infamous private girls’ school that is a hotbed of anarchy, hedonistic excess and free expression, run by headmistress Camilla Fritton (Rupert Everett). As usual, it is facing financial ruin and closure by the education minister (Colin Firth). The girls decide to save the day by stealing a painting, Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, and selling it through Flash Harry (Russell Brand, in George Cole’s old role).

The original St Trinian’s was a celebration of English eccentricity, non-conformity and the charming decadence of the posh. This update offers a series of social clichés, from hot totty to chavs.

It’s St Trinian’s for the Bratz/Girls Aloud generation. That is, girls who think getting drunk and acting like a moronic ladette is a form of female empowerment.

We’ve been warned that the characters’ use of soft drugs and the overt sexiness of the girls would offend a lot of people. Well, it’s funny how the old films were actually more sexy and daring than this one. None of this lot even smokes.

The action begins with a posh new girl, Annabelle (Talulah Riley), being deposited by her father (Everett, not in drag) and given a tour of the place. We meet the gangs of girls and get a series of sight gags: the school’s collection of guns and shrunken heads, pupil in water tank and so on. But after this quick romp-through, the film doesn’t know what to do. To give itself some energy and momentum, it resorts to pumping up the soundtrack and piling on more ghoulish gags or another display of girlie naughtiness. The anarcho spirit must have seemed charming, even daring, in the 1950s because it was set in a world of prim girls’ schools and a society of stuffy rules and regulations. But that’s gone now. We see St Trinian’s excess all over England, and it’s not a pretty sight.

If this was a truly funny film that dared to take real risks, all could be forgiven, but it’s dated and safe in its concern with class. Devoid of any visual inspiration of its own, it draws on the cartoon gothicness of the school’s creator, Ronald Searle. In the same fashion, the screenwriters, Piers Ashworth and Nick Moorcroft, recycle all the clapped-out classics of British comedy—a politician caught with his trousers down and men in drag. Everett camps it up like a fairy godmother from an amateur panto production, and, as you would expect, the film is packed with the familiar faces of little Brit movies, such as Stephen Fry and Anna Chancellor. Big-screen newcomer Brand’s performance suggests he has a bright future as a television presenter.

This is the sixth, and hopefully the last, film in the St Trinian’s series that began in 1954 with The Belles of St Trinian’s. May it now rest in peace.

Daily Mail (Dec 21, 2007, by Christopher Tookey) - 2 out of 5 stars

Verdict: Not the Christmas turkey you might imagine

The target audience for St Trinian's is, as you might expect, girls from 11 to 14. Oddly enough, though, the movie it most resembles is not any of the St Trinian's movies of the Fifties and Sixties, but Spiceworld: The Movie (1997), which had very much the same mixture of high spirits, camp and cheerful trashiness. It's pretty depressing stuff if you pause to assess it seriously. The film condones, among other things, bullying, stealing and drugtaking, but does so in such an infantile way that it's not all that offensive
merely dimwitted.

In the Fifties, cartoonist Ronald Searle's Hellions were a refreshing corrective to the straight-laced image of British public schoolgirls; now, they merely look like girls at any inner-city comprehensive, but with fewer knives and pregnancies. The girls are supposed to be lovably anarchic, but actually fall into various kinds of overfamiliar caricatures, such as chavs and posh totty, and dress as though to cater to the tastes of middle-aged men so sad they can't even work out how to download pornography from the internet.

Where the Fifties' films had the splendidly furtive George Cole as the girls' underworld mentor Flash Harry, the new Flash is the puzzlingly ubiquitous Russell Brand, looking (as usual) like the bastard offspring of Captain Jack Sparrow and Amy Winehouse, and mugging to camera as though he's in a panto matinee. I'm not convinced that the arrival of Mr Brand on our cinema screens constitutes progress.

The reason the movie is quite fun, without being any good, is Rupert Everett's turn as a horse-faced headmistress, transparently influenced by Camilla Parker Bowles. He obviously enjoys flirting aggressively with Colin Firth, who sends himself up sportingly as a thrusting, humourless politician from the Ministry of Education, determined to close down St Trinian's as an example to other underperforming schools.

Underperforming is not something of which the other thespians can be accused. Most of the acting is crude, and most of the decent actors are wasted
no one more so than Toby Jones, as the hapless school bursar, and Lena Headey, who has a 'jolly hockey sticks' Joyce Grenfell part that never goes anywhere. I presume either that both were exceptionally well paid, or that their roles ended up on the cutting-room floor.

Anyone expecting comic subtlety will be disappointed, but the pace is fast; and the lowbrow gags keep coming. It looks terrible, but this is a low-budget, Lottery-funded British film, so that's not entirely surprising.

Edinburgh Evening News (Dec 21, 2007, by Damon Smith)

Girls just wanna have fun in Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson's revival of the naughty, hockey stick-wielding minxes, first immortalised in the cartoons of Ronald Searle...Transplanted to the present day, these rebellious and unruly schoolgirls
who make 100 per cent proof vodka in the biology lab and run possibly the world's tamest phone sex line from their dormitorydon't seem fearsome at all. Indeed, keeping in mind the nightmarish headlines about drugs, violence and bullying in our classrooms, the pranks of these girl cliques are now rather tame...

St Trinian's is frothy and undemanding fun, interspersed with snappily edited montages set to songs by Shampoo, Sophie Ellis Bextor and Girls Aloud. Piers Ashworth and Nick Moorcroft's screenplay demands a total suspension of disbelief, like the Posh Totties discovering their inner geeks or quizmaster Fry accepting drugs from a member of the studio audience.

With so many characters crammed into 100 frenetic minutes, we forge few emotional bonds with the students. Arterton oozes sex appeal and Riley is appealingly gawky as the new girl who begs her father to take her away from the school, which she calls "Hogwarts for pikeys!"

Everett and Firth have fun with their roles, verbally referencing their 1984 film Another Country plus a visual gag to please fans of Pride And Prejudice. Jodie Whittaker steals the film though, as sassy receptionist Beverly. "You'll 'ave to forgive me," she tells Carnaby apologetically, "but me brain doesn't kick in until Wednesday after I've been canin' it for the weekend!"

St Trinian's homebrew will do that to you.

Screendaily (Dec 21, 2007, by Allan Hunter)

A modern make-over may have worked wonders for James Bond but it fails to rejuvenate another great British institution in the lacklustre return of Ronald Searle's unruly schoolgirls. The St Trinian's films were a commercially viable franchise for twenty-five years until the series fizzled out with Wildcats Of St Trinian's in 1980. The revival cheapens and diminishes the anarchic spirit of the original, eliminating any potential curiosity value for nostalgic older viewers.

The coarse comedy, deafening soundtrack and smattering of fashionable names (Russell Brand, Girls Aloud) should still allow the film to connect with its target audience of young teenage girls in the UK thanks to the aggressive, saturation marketing of distributor/co-producer Entertainment. Foreign prospects are slim for a film whose English eccentricity and pantomime-like exaggeration lends it a home grown appeal that is unlikely to travel.

Desperate to appear hip and happening, the screenplay by Piers Ashworth and Nick Moorcroft reworks elements of the plot from The Belles Of St Trinian's (1954) gussying them up with contemporary references, profanity and a generous dollop of smut. Youtube humiliation and mentions of CSI and Desperate Housewives are worn as badges of modernity and St Trinian's is even dubbed "Hogwarts for pikeys".

A school for free-spirited young ladies, St Trinian's is presided over by disreputable headmistress Camilla Fritton (Everett). Her art dealer brother Carnaby (Everett) is only too happy to impose daughter Annabelle (Talulah Riley) on her as a new pupil. Annabelle suffers the customary humiliations reserved for newcomers but learns to embrace the team spirit when the school faces the threat of closure from a combination of unpaid debts and the interference of stuffy Education Minister Geoffrey Thwaites (Firth). A Mission Impossible-style art heist is planned to deal with the financial embarrassment whilst Camilla decides to work her feminine wiles on Geoffrey who just happens to be an old flame from her university days.

Slapdash in its sense of plotting and logic, the sloppy, self-indulgent nature of the film is shown in its willingness to exploit the past history of co-stars Firth and Everett for cheap gags. An over-amorous dog is called Mr Darcy, Firth strolls around in a clinging wet shirt at one point and one punchline involves a lame reference to their joint film debut in Another Country (1984). The two even duet over the closing credits with a version of Love Is in the Air.

If the film overplays the Everett/Firth connections it under-employs a game and talented cast of major British character actors (Celia Imrie, Toby Jones etc) who are given precious little time to make a major impression. That may explain the lack of subtlety in some of the performances. Jodie (Venus) Whittaker contributes some amusing moments as Beverly, a secretary who appears to be modelled on Bubbles from television sitcom Absolutely Fabulous. Ubiquitous British television personality Russell Brand is disappointingly bland as dodgy geezer Flash Harry, the role originated by George Cole.

Working in tandem, directors Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson contribute to the frantic, scattershot nature of the project with a style that uses every trick from split-screen to slow-motion to try and retain our interest in events. It lends the film the kind of sugar rush burst of energy that comes from consuming a fizzy drink and is quickly followed by exhaustion.

St Trinian's is a more polished affair than Carry On Columbus (1992) but it leads to the same conclusion that some cherished comic institutions are best left to the cosy comfort of television matinees and sweet remembrance rather than brought into the harsh glare of the modern world.

The Hollywood Reporter (Dec 21, 2007, by Ray Bennett)

Bottom Line: Wild goings-on at an English girls' school in the Ealing comedy tradition, almost.

Remaking eccentric English comedies is seldom a good idea, especially the ones from Ealing Studios with all those wonderful character actors. But against all odds, the new version of "St. Trinian's" almost pulls it off.

Based on characters created by cartoonist Ronald Searle as a distraction during World War II, the original films from the 1950s and '60s starred the incomparable Alastair Sim as headmistress of a girls' school whose pupils turn to anarchy. It was all stocking tops and hockey sticks with the likes of Terry-Thomas, George Cole and Lionel Jeffries ogling the wild young beauties while Joyce Grenfell, Beryl Reid and Hermione Baddeley tried to maintain order.

Directors Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson, who have tried their hands at Oscar Wilde, bring the St. Trinian's girls up to date with Rupert Everett, who apparently had the idea, taking the Sim role as Miss Fritton. It's like water off a duck's back even though no one could match the original actor's extraordinary comic gifts.

Everett's pretty good, though, playing off himself as the schoolmarm's conniving brother Carnaby and flirting outrageously with Colin Firth as Geoffrey Thwaites, the minister of education who is trying to close the joint down. The headmistress greets him carrying a small dog named Mr. Darcy.
Firth is in good form too, once again displaying his talent for physical comedy, as he becomes the victim of some aggressively silly pranks by the formidably inventive young ladies....Mischa Barton ("The O.C.") and Stephen Fry have small cameos as the film turns into a reasonably entertaining caper film featuring lots of very appealing young women, which makes a pleasant change from the usual sweating heavies.

The Telegraph (Dec 21, 2007, by Tim Robey)

Anyone caught crying "Sacrilege!" at the St Trinian's remake has suffered a sense-of-humour failure. Sacrilege is the whole idea
sacrilege and pandemonium and jokes about YouTube. The funniest thing about the new movie, unashamedly targeted at teenage girls, is the expression it would have planted on the late Joyce Grenfell's face.
My thoughts turned fondly, also, to the conniptions it might have caused the 1950s ratings board. Is that a spliff Rupert Everett is smoking? What's going on between Russell Brand's Flash Harry and the head girl (Gemma Arterton)? And that phrase "head girl"
why does everyone keep sniggering at it?

Prepared for a smug shambles, I was pleasantly surprised. Everett won't eclipse anyone's memories of Alastair Sim, but he's a hoot in drag as the braying Miss Fritton, all Bugs Bunny teeth and pink jumpsuits. Not for nothing is she called Camilla, and for no obvious reason Everett even dons an Elizabethan ruff at one point
a sneaky bit of undercover royal-baiting. I doubt they'll be screening this at Buckingham Palace.

As ever, St Trin's
or "Hogwarts for pikeys", as the new girl (the excellent Talulah Riley) dubs itis in dire straits. The Minister of Education (Colin Firth) wants to brandish it as a filthy example of financial corruption and lax morals, which is hard to pull off with dignity when a dog called Mr Darcy keeps humping your leg.

Plus, there's history between him and Miss Fritton, as indeed there is on screen between Firth
a spiffing straight man hereand the showboating Everett. Double entendres at the ready.

The truth is, though Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson direct with more flourish than genuine inspiration, their film is camp fun, and catnip for a demographic that British cinema doesn't often bother to please. The original series of films were far more squarely targeted at adults, with their casting of Sim and Grenfell, national institutions both. For all their charm, they were arguably too sedate, blunting the edge of Ronald Searle's delightfully vicious cartoons. No one would call this a better film, but in an odd way it's truer to Searle, at least in restoring the balance and letting its young cast drive the story.

Not everything works
a lot of the supporting players, including the oddly third-billed bluestocking Lena Headeyhave barely anything to do, and Brand looks uncomfortable with the fool's errand of playing a contemporary spiv. That's one joke that just doesn't fly, but there are lots of others with mileage, and I laughed loud and often.

Poppers, in lieu of smelling salts, are proffered for those knocked out on the hockey pitch. Meanwhile, one member of the student clique "Posh Totty", which appears to be an underage escort service in all but name, is given a teacherly pep talk. "You know what you are?" asks a sympathetic Headey. "A washed-up slapper?" Totty wonders, so forlornly that the schoolgirls behind me almost died.

Crude, rude, lewd
but funny, and that'll do nicely.

The Guardian (Dec 21, 2007, by Peter Bradshaw) - 1 out of 5 stars

Oh my God, look
there in the cast of the new Lottery-funded British comedy film! It's ... it's Lily Cole, isn't it? You know. The slightly weird-looking supermodel. Some film producer has seen a picture of her in a glossy magazine and thought: it would be a good idea to cast her in a remake of the 1950s St Trinian's schoolgirl comedies. (Perhaps Jade Jagger and Plum Sykes weren't available.) A throat-clearing subordinate might have pointed out that there is every likelihood that Cole, through no fault of her own, would be completely rubbish. But the decision to cast her has in a sense been vindicated here. She is essentially no more rubbish in it than anyone else. She is, for example, no worse than professional comic Russell Brand.

This is a monumentally naff film, shaming and depressing in a way that British feature-film comedies have persisted in being, intermittently, all our lives. Cheesy, dated, humourless and crass, it's a nightmare of stunt-casting, and was apparently composed by a committee of suits, PR execs and press agents. Despite its continuous stream of up-to-the-minute pop culture references, it has been updated only to about 1978, a spiritual cousin to the late-period Carry Ons.

The drag convention, which started with Alastair Sim in the original, is revived with Rupert Everett as the leering headmistress, Miss Fritton, presiding over the feisty boater-wearing tykes and kittenish dollybirds (only the 70s term will do), wearing naughty-but-nice school uniforms. Of all the wretched cast, I concede that Everett does show some flair. He may not have the comedy gold, but he knows roughly where the treasure map is. However, his presence is swamped by a dire script and catastrophically unamusing contributions from everyone else.

Lena "300" Headey is the nerdy, speccy, Joyce Grenfell-y English teacher: a baffling performance from which the punchline has perhaps been amputated in the edit. Russell Brand, unable to do his own material, is uncomfortable in the laugh-free role of Flash Harry. Colin Firth plays a pompous schools minister who, oh my sides, winds up in bed with Miss Fritton. It is as funny as the worried frown on the face of an oncologist.

The Independent (Dec 21, 2007, by Anthony Quinn) - 2 out of 5 stars

The old St Trinian's movies with Alistair Sim weren't exactly comedy classics, but they look like gold next to this feeble, sloppily written caper. Its main selling-point is the casting of Rupert Everett as the headmistress of the titular school, channeling the horsey spirit of Camilla Parker Bowles.

The rest of the cast mug and gurn their way through an anarchic, frenetic but not actually comic plot involving the schoolgirls' efforts to steal a Vermeer from the National Gallery. Colin Firth plays a dastardly schools minister, Russell Brand a dodgy dealer, while good performers go completely to waste.

Empire (by Sam Toy) - 2 out of 5 stars

It’s been 53 years since Ealing Studios made The Belles Of St Trinian’s and 27 since Wildcats Of St Trinian’s disgraced itself and all but buried the franchise. Now the hockey sticks and school uniforms have been dusted off and a new team has attempted to make the unruly girls appeal to a new generation.

Can they make it work for ‘the yoof of today’? Well, beyond the excuse of “it’s for kids”, this vague remake of ‘Belles’ has numerous problems, but most of them are the fault of crew rather than cast. Here’s another British film (part of a worrying trend of late) that is poorly lit, poorly shot, and sometimes poorly edited. The technical ineptitude throws off the comic timing and jokes fall flat, while bad framing betrays the film’s limited budget.

And so it goes for most of the first act… until Colin Firth shows up and suddenly everything begins to fit into place. Rupert Everett (reprising Alistair Simm’s glorious turn from ‘Belles’ with dual roles as twins Camilla and Carnaby Fritton, headmistress of the school and her cad twin brother), suddenly has the right foil to work with and Firth’s subplot also allows the girls to get busy with mischief, picking up the pace.

As with the source material, most of the girls only get a few lines; Talulah Riley is fine in the lead as Carnaby’s daughter Annabelle but for entertainment value, top honours go to Chloe and Holly Mackie as twin junior terrors with a penchant for C4. Many ‘adults’ get the same – Caterina Murino, Celia Imrie, Lena Headey and Toby Jones among them – are asked a lot and given little, although the ubiquitous Russell Brand (who can’t act, but that’s not why he’s here) gets a bigger slice of screentime as Flash Harry.

This St Trinian’s 2.0 does manage to fuse an understanding of what made the originals great with a modern feel - the writers have fulfilled their end of the bargain, even tweaking some of the weaker points of the original story - but they and the cast have been let down by some dreadfully clunky filmmaking.

The target audience
pre-teen girlsaren’t going to notice the many shortfalls behind the camera. What they’ll enjoy, regardless of quality, is some naughtiness true to the spirit of the series, Russell Brand and Girls Aloud. For the rest of us it’s tougher going with mostly Everett and Firth to see us through.

Channel 4 Film (by Daniel Etherington) - 3 out of 5 stars

For this 2007 revamp, co-directors Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson have done an able job of bringing the series back to life. The film features a strong cast, is suitably anarchic and frequently hilarious. It's spot-on for entertaining its target audience of 12-year-old girls....

St Trinian's' slow set-up is its biggest flaw. There's a string of great, sketch-like set-pieces though, including a school weapons amnesty, and some cheeky dialogue. Like all the best films aimed at younger audiences, St Trinian's packs in a lot that kids won't necessarily pick up on
notably drug references (signs doctored from 'Keep off the grass' to 'Keep off your head'; "Does anybody have any smelling salts?" "No, but I've got poppers" etc.) as well as asides about the acting careers of Everett and Colin Firth.

Firth plays the nominal nemesis, Minister of Education Geoffrey Thwaites who's determined to give a "good kick up the arse" to poorly performing schools, exemplified by St Trinian's. He was also the lover of Camilla at university
"Another time", "Another country" they say to each other, in a nod to the 1984 drama in which they both starred. To milk the film references yet further, we get Firth reprising his wet shirt scene from 'Pride And Prejudice', and Camilla's dog is called Mr Darcy. It's not sophisticated, but it is fun....

When Kelly suggests stealing Vermeer's 'Girl With The Pearl Earring', the dim posh tottie girls Chelsea (Egerton), Peaches (Karan) and Chloe (Bernath) respond with "Oh my God
you want to steal Scarlett Johansson!" Cue more inter-textual nods to Firth, who also starred in that film....

The film's girl power message is thoroughly laboured, and the story occasionally grinds to a halt. But when that happens the filmmakers cannily bung in a quick scene of the girls screaming and dancing madly to a classic rock cover, or cut back to the Everett-Firth double-act, which has plenty of chemistry even when the lines are groaners. (Everett appears in full Elizabeth I regalia and asks, "Don't you think I make a good queen?")...

Verdict: Heavy-handed at times and poorly plotted, but energetic and funny. A suitably undignified return to the screen for the notorious school and its out-of-control pupils. [Full review with lots of plot detail]

The Mirror (Dec 21, 2007, by David Edwards)

There are about a million reasons why this remake shouldn’t work
The Avengers, The Pink Panther and The Italian Job among them. Recreating much-loved classics of yesteryear rarely seems to succeed, yet this new version of the classic Ealing comedy proves a rare exception to the rule by being just about OK.

While unlikely to have anyone cheering in the stalls, St Trinian’s is nowhere near the calamity it should have been, even if it comes within striking distance more than once...

More than just a lazy reboot, actual thought has gone into a script littered with in-jokes that wittily reference Firth’s career. He gamely sends up that career-defining wet shirt moment from Pride And Prejudice and, later, drolly refers to his part alongside Everett in Another Country. Meanwhile, the art treasure the students try to nick is Girl With A Pearl Earring
which just happens to be the film Firth starred in with Scarlett Johansson.

Happily, the subversive spirit of the original movies remains intact with the teenage terrorists flogging vodka, stolen art and even designer tampons to local wideboy Flash Harry (Russell Brand).

Although hanging on the thinnest of plots, the action moves along at a brisk pace, while Everett is as dependable as ever as the scatty, buck-toothed headmistress. The sexual chemistry between him and Firth’s stuffed-shirt politician provide the biggest laughs....

Although taking a long time to get going, the jokes come thick and fast in the last hour, including an amusing scene where Firth inadvertently kicks a dog (wittily named Mr Darcy) from a window. Rounding things off, is an assembly hall performance by Girls Aloud.

Sure, this isn’t a brilliant film and it goes without saying the 1954 original was better but, it’s better than expected and certainly far from being bottom of the class.

Evening Standard (Dec 20, 2007, by Derek Malcolm) - 2 ** out of 5

Do you remember Alastair Sim and George Cole in Frank Launder's The Belles of St Trinian? If you do, it will surely be with affection. It wasn't exactly a classic British comedy and its successors in the genre were fairly dire, but the character actors on display in the original would make mincemeat of this lot in the remake.

In Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson's oddly sketchy film Rupert Everett takes Sim's parts, and Russell Brand reprises Cole's spivvy Flash Harry. Without wishing to be too rude to these two, it is definitely not a bargain.

Nor do Parker and Thompson manage the proper appreciation of cinematic farce that Launder evinced. Structurally, the new movie is a mess, and it doesn't look too convincing either, with cinematography that uses all sorts of old-fashioned dodges to raise a laugh. Launder, a real craftsman even when not at his best, would never have allowed it.

The plot, which brings the schoolgirl pupils up to date as Posh Totties, centres on Annabelle (Talulah Riley), thrown out of Cheltenham Ladies' College owing to non-payment of fees and plunged by her unscrupulous art dealer father (Everett) into what she sees as a young offenders' institution, where she is faced with some nasty new-girl initiations.

But when the school comes under threat from Colin Firth's ambitious education minister, who sensibly wants to close the place down, she combines with the motley crew to pull off the daring heist of Girl with a Pearl Earring from the National Gallery. This will presumably save the situation, though one is not certain how.

St Trinian's is fast-paced, mercifully not too long and deserves some laughs from time to time. Even if Everett is no Sim, he is funny as headmistress Camilla, though much less so as the duplicitous art dealer. But Brand should take another look at Cole's work before presenting himself as an actor again.

Among the rest
including the model Lily Cole and Mischa Bartonfew have much chance to shine, simply because the screenplay thinks it is more amusing than it is. And it's strange that sex rears its head even less than in Launder's film for fear, no doubt, of a worrying political incorrectness about young flesh.

When you look at it again, the old film was not only superior but rather more radical. This St Trinian's looks as if it is aiming at the lowest common denominator, and finding it too often.

The Times (Dec 20, 2007, by James Christopher) - 4 out of 5 stars

Oliver Parker’s high-heeled version of St Trinian’s is a spiky, topical joy. Despite the micro-skirts, fishnet stockings, and catwalk models, including Lily Cole, the raunch factor rarely exceeds a Carry On tease. But the 2008 female clans are neatly mapped out when new girl, Annabelle (Talulah Riley), is paraded past emos, geeks, posh totty, chavs and first year sopranos.

Every one of these girls is guilty until proved innocent, and the hardline Mr Clean-up is Colin Firth. St Trinian’s is a disciplinary disaster area. The teachers’ common room resembles a Soho dive bar. The exam results are a national disgrace. The chemistry lab is a vodka distillery. The school encapsulates all the evils of private education. And Firth is determined to destroy this carbuncle on the bottom of the education system in the full glare of television lights and the tabloid press.

The plot
to save the school from scheming bastardsis frankly old hat. But Colin Firth’s humiliation is a thing of wonder. His entire career on screen and stage is beautifully sent up before our eyes. The bête noire is the utterly fabulous headmistress, Camilla Fritton, played by Rupert Everett. Her toothy smile is probably less pleasing than it was yesterday, and her bosoms have anchored around her waist. But the old fruit has a hold over Firth that no film, actor, bit-part player or contract can possibly deny. They were lovers at Oxford. “It was another time,” murmers Miss Fritton, licking her teeth. “It was Another Country,” sighs Firth.

I’m afraid the film-spotters’ entries multiply as Firth is tossed into a fountain (Bridget Jones), humped by a dog called D’Arcy, thrown into a lake (Pride and Prejudice), forced to explain the theft of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, and caught naked by the tabloids throwing open the curtains in a room he shouldn’t be in (Life of Brian).

The Financial Times (Dec 19, 2007, by Karl French)

One’s dim, rosy recollection of the original St Trinian’s films of the 1950s and 1960s is spoiled somewhat when one catches them again on TV or DVD. In truth they are pretty uneven affairs illuminated by the presence of Alastair Sim, Joyce Grenfell and George Cole.

An unsuccessful attempt was made to revive the series in the 1980s and now for some reason directors Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson
responsible for the movies An Ideal Husband and Spiceworld respectivelyhave been tempted to update the story of the school for scandalous girls. What attracted them or their fine castRupert Everett, Colin Firth, Celia Imrieremains a mystery, as does the target audience: no girl or boy over the age of 12 would be attracted by anything so puerile, while its UK certificate and occasionally risqué subject matter rule out under-12s.

Sunday Mirror (Dec 16, 2007, by Mark Adams) – 3 stars

This fast and frantic updating of the classic series of St Trinian's films from the Fifties and Sixties is a thoroughly tasty affair, packed with feisty young femmes who are a match for anyone and headlined by terrific performances by Rupert Everett (in drag as the headmistress Camilla Fritton) and more especially the terrific Russell Brand as the too-cool-for-school fixer Flash Harry.

Of course, the film is really about the girls—and they are excellent. There are so many characters it is hard to pick and choose...but standouts include Talulah Riley as the new girl Annabelle, Gemma Arterton as the sultry head girl, Lily Cole as techno whiz Polly, and Kathryn Drysdale (of TV's Two Pints of Lager) as feisty Taylor.

It would be too easy to compare St Trinian's with the black and white originals. Certainly there was more innocence about the earlier films, and there is no denying that Alistair Sim was quite brilliant as Millicent Fritton...the Rupert Everett incarnation has been re-named Camilla.

The old-fashioned schoolgirl uniforms have been retained, though on the whole they have been amended to reflect the new girl characters, ranging from Goths and geeks through to teen temptresses.

Of course, it's all good-natured fun, but at times the film does lapse into a bit of simplistic salaciousness with lingering shots at short skirts and suspender belts.

Russell Brand has great fun as Flash Harry and Colin Firth does a fine job in the straight-man role. There are loads of other great performers on show (Stephen Fry, Celia Imrie, Toby Jones, Lena Headey etc), but sadly they hardly get a look in.

The early sections of the film feel a little forced and lacking in real humour, but once the plan to rescue the school sets in then the pace quickens and there is a nice blend of comedy, music and entertainment.

Even Girls Aloud pop up to sing in the final party sequence. No classic certainly, but it will appeal to funloving teens.

FINAL CUT: Girl power is truly back - St Trinian's rocks!

Back to Main Click on boots to contact me