In modern Britain where the ASBO culture rules OK, the schoolgirls of St Trinian's are about as shocking and edgy as a ciggie behind the bike sheds - oh, except that smoking onscreen is generally frowned upon these days ... The truth is, the original Belles Of St Trinian's (1954) would eat these newbies for breakfast. As the school's headmistress, only Rupert Everett shows true bulldog spirit, but it would be a stretch to see him back for a second term.
It falls to new blood Annabel (Talulah Riley) to remind us how outrageous the girls of St Trinians are, until Lucy Punch, the hockey-playing psycho from a rival school, shows them up. A match provides the excuse for some cartoonish violence whilst the real story takes time kicking in. The school is threatened with closure by the Minister for Education, Geoffrey Thwaites, (Colin Firth) and because Mrs Fritton (Everett) can't pay the bills. So, in steps head girl Kelly (Gemma Arterton) who hatches a plot to steal a painting from the National Gallery.
Annabel is nudged further into the background as the story lurches clumsily forward. In the role of Flash Harry (originally played by George Cole), comedian Russell Brand is treated as an afterthought. Firth plays it admirably straight as Geoffrey, but the suggestion of a romantic history with Mrs Fritton is only good for a few chuckles. Everett, clearly channelling the spirit of Camilla Parker Bowles (rather than Alastair Sim), is the only member of the cast who looks at ease. Even so, that 'jolly hockey sticks' vibe feels outmoded with the only efforts to update the concept being shorter skirts and push-up bras. Annabel getting gunged on her first night in boarding school sets the tone for what is basically a slightly pervy edition of Crackerjack.
St. Trinian's is out in the UK on 21st December 2007.