Here’s the scenario – when a sitcom in the 70s made it big, the movie companies chased them up for a big screen spin-off. Sometimes, extending the action to 90 minutes worked (I’m thinking the Steptoe and Son films), other times, the movie showed up the sitcom’s limitations (I’m thinking too many to mention). With Are You Being Served – The Movie, it was somewhere in the middle, leaning more towards success than failure.
Writers Perry and Croft obviously realised than an extended stay in store wouldn’t work, so they shipped everyone off to the Costa Plonka (yes, it’s really called that – Grace Brothers apparently getting some renovations). So we get half an hour with the usual store japes, then around an hour in some mythical Spanish resort, knee deep in innuendo and every foreign holiday cliche you can think of.
Yes, we get jokes about foreign food (and especially garlic), the Germans, the Spanish and holiday jabs, not to mention the inevitable gags about Mrs Slocombe’s pussy and Mr Humphries’ camp manner. It makes no sense at all – why do all the staff get sent on holiday together? Why do they happen to have a revolution in the town? After all, this is Spain in 1977!
But despite and because of all that, it’s funny. It’s slightly risque, but never on the wrong side of a seaside postcard, it’s got a great cast – made while all the original cast was still present – and above all, it’s got one of the best writing teams of the 70s – Jimmy Perry and David Croft.
It never won any awards, it’s unlikely to make many top 10 lists, but if you’ve got any love of 70s sitcoms, you’ll enjoy this film. However, you might want to watch a weighty piece of European drama afterwards just to redress the balance!