“I saw The Inbetweeners Movie last night, it was great.”
“I’m sorry, the what?”
Despite this British sitcom’s surprisingly far-reaching fan base (not a single seat of the four hundred in my cinema was left unoccupied) I still find myself having to explain the show to family members, casual acquaintances and my favorite movie-loving cab driver on the way home.
So, a quick recap as the premise is simple: We follow four friends on the fringe of social status — somewhere between the “normal kids” and the “freaks” — as they meander their way through high school and its teenage perils. Picking up during the last day of school, these “inbetweeners” — the nerdy but level-headed narrator Will (Simon Bird), selfish relationship-dependent Simon (Joe Thomas), compulsive liar and big-noter Jay (James Buckley) and loveable dimwit Neil (Blake Harrison) — decide to book a party holiday to Greece to help Simon get over his break-up with Carli (Emily Head), but things get hairy when Simon, who is at the furthest point from being over his ex, spots her on the same trip.
If I had to justify why I liked this film with one sentence, it would be this: At no point does it stray from the formula that made the show so refreshing. The humor is there, as are the scenes of incredible social awkwardness, but this consistency begins with proper characterization. Every fan of the show has a personal favorite, and should be pleased to hear that their move to the big screen has not coerced creators Iain Morris and Damon Beesley into thinking they should customize the characters to suit a wider audience. By the end of The Inbetweeners Movie, each of the four is in an inherently better position in their life than they were two hours ago, but how they all get there remains entrenched in typical The Inbetweeners fashion.
What does this mean exactly? It means that the screenplay puts individual character development on the backburner for most of the film, instead preferring to fill every scene with a truckload of jokes ranging from slapstick, the spoken word and a merciless array of cringe-worthy moments; the kind that have become the niche of the series. In any other genre this could be considered a sour point, but comedies are granted exceptions on the basis that they exist primarily to entertain, not to provide a moral, or indeed, much deep thinking at all. Does each character learn something about their life through their experience in Greece? Sure. Should we expect them to let the rest of their life be guided by these same profound moments of clarity? I doubt it.
Anyone even slightly familiar with the series would also be aware of its unrelentingly crude subject matter, which some might interpret as vulgar or even offensive. That’s a personal call, and while it doesn’t concern my comedic sensibilities in the slightest, I must warn the more politically correct among us that this is not a movie for you. Few social taboos are left undisturbed, and when you couple this with the notion that filmmakers can get away with a lot more on the big screen, it is recommended that fence-sitters have a long think about how they feel about rude and crude humor, lest they return home with the unexplained compulsion to take a boiling hot bath and scrub until a little skin comes off.
If I had to make a couple of minor criticisms, I would say that a handful of party clichés are overdone (see: front-on shots of friends walking in slow-motion through a club with big grins on their faces) and that some realism is lost when Simon appears too gullible to be believed (you’ll know it when you see it). However, these moments are few and far between, and fail to detract from making The Inbetweeners Movie the funniest movie I’ve seen in a good few years.