This movie sneaked into theaters through the back door. There was little promotion, no commercials, no trailers, no posters — nothing that I saw anyway. When I saw this on the schedule for my local theater I had to go looking around for a trailer to get an idea of what it was. I did find it and I thought that it looked pretty good, so I decided to give it a go. I went in with the best of intentions, hoping for a fun, irreverent comedy. When it was finally over, I walked out wondering just were they thinking. It is not nearly the worst film I have seen, but it does not seem that they put any actual thought into the story; instead they were content to just create a little anarchy.
St. Trinian's was originally released in its native UK back in 2007 where it was a big hit, raking in more than $25 million. It did so well that it has spawned a sequel, currently in post-production. Why it took so long to cross the pond, I am not sure, but it is here now and no one has noticed. I saw the film Saturday afternoon, opening weekend, and I was the only one there. I am not surprised, but perhaps a little disappointed that more people are not choosing to check out the unknown quantity that is this film.
The movie is ostensibly a comedy, but it can be broken down much more than that. St. Trinian's is a slapstick, coming of age, counter-culture, subversive, cross-dressing, comedy, heist film. I think that about covers it. I believe it is possible for a film to cover all of this ground and be good; sadly, this film just seems muddled and confused.
The core of St. Trinian's is a story about a school on the verge of bankruptcy whose students band together in order to steal a famous piece of art to fence for the mortgage money. Before we can get to this plot point we have some other business to attend to.
The story opens with Annabelle Fritton (Talulah Riley) being driven by her father, Carnaby (Rupert Everett), to her new boarding school. The school is none other than St. Trinian's, run by Carnaby's sister, Camilla (Rupert Everett). Annabelle is shocked to discover the conditions at the school, not to mention the irreverent way in which the students conduct themselves.
We are introduced to a variety of cliques, including the posh totties, the emos, and the geeks. They all keep to themselves, although they do come together whenever it's time to torture a new girl (a little glue and feathers usually does the trick). The school is overrun with these various students, all encouraged to express themselves as they see fit. The school is lenient to the point of pointlessness. There never seem to be any classes and the teachers do not appear to have any control over the girls.
In addition to the apparent lawlessness of the school, we learn that the girls are acting a little like slave labor, producing low grade vodka for an odd character (teacher?) named Flash (Russell Brand). This bit never goes anywhere despite offering up some interesting possibilities. We also learn that the ministry of education wants to get their programs moving in the right direction and plan on making St. Trinian's an example of the new direction. Finally, we learn of Carnaby's attempts to sell the school down the river for a profit. It is this last point that spurs the various cliques to band together to save the school through robbery.
This movie just did not work for me. Sure, the zaniness had its moments of fun, but for the most part it felt aimless, long, and boring. The characters have no depth, the story never gains focus, and I just looked forward to it being over.