Inbetweeners movie

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

Most sitcom characters never learn or change, their personality traits consistent from episode to episode. And much as we love them, it’s difficult to identify with them, because they’re essentially going nowhere. Part of The Inbetweeners appeal has always been that despite the immovable objects of Will, Simon, Jay and Neil’s idiocy, social ineptitude and virginity, their impending graduation always loomed in the background, promising freedom.

So it makes sense to release them on to Crete for a lads’ holiday and into a feature-length film, offering potential liberation from their arrested development and frustrated hormones. Once Greg Davies’s head of sixth form, Mr Gilbert, has unsentimentally, hilariously, washed his hands of their welfare, there’s an opportunity to fill out their back stories.

A famous actor gives an amusing cameo as Will’s hitherto anonymous father and there’s the first meeting of Jay and Neil’s dads, a scene that critics of the series could justifiably point to as characteristic of its juvenile excess. The problem with successive characters sniggering at another’s supposed homosexuality is that it starts to look like it’s the writers who are finding it all so amusing.

Still, Iain Morris and Damon Beesley appreciate their new format enough though to question why the boorish Jay and over-sensitive Simon have stayed friends and there’s a calculatedly poignant moment when the former realises he’ll be abandoned when they return. Ultimately though, most of us just want to see The Inbetweeners making bigger wankers of themselves on a bigger screen and in that respect, the film delivers.

Like three episodes of the sitcom spliced together with scenes of them waking up hungover, the story picks up after the series ended, with Will (Simon Bird) worrying about university, Neil (Blake Harrison) with a girlfriend, Simon (Joe Thomas) dumped by his beloved Carli (Emily Head) and Jay (James Buckley) caught masturbating at a bittersweet moment of family tragedy. As the de facto straight man, it’s Simon’s break-up that prompts them to flee suburbia’s suffocation as the T-shirt sporting ‘Pussay Patrol’.

Their accommodation is filthy but their minds are blown by the exotic ‘clunge’ they find on the Malia streets at night. Gullibly welcomed into the least happening bar on the strip, Neil’s signature dancing and the others’ awkward attempts to mimic him endear them to four attractive English girls (Laura Haddock, Tamla Kari, Jessica Knappett and Lydia Rose Bewley). They pair off and proceed to humiliate themselves in their own distinctive ways. Neil eventually gets lucky, after a fashion, but Simon is still seeing Carli everywhere, literally it transpires, as due to a quirk of Neil, she’s also at the resort but more interested in her smoothly nasty hotel rep.

Through a blur of lager and Jagermeister, Will unsuccessfully attempts to smooth over the distress the group cause a family with a disabled daughter and wins a tongue-in-cheek promise for the removal of his virginity; Simon and Jay come to pathetic blows after the latter is humiliated by a child; and Neil emerges as an unlikely source of wisdom, with everything coming to a head on a riotous boat party at the end of the week.

There’s more vomit, smut and crassness than ever featured in the sitcom, even if The Simpsons movie beat them to one particular threshold-crossing gag. And it’s pacily directed by Ben Palmer, who knows just when to cut to a booze-fuelled montage if things start to get too serious. There’s unquestionable truth too, in its portrayal of a final lad’s holiday before university or employment. Fans will enjoy it, the unconverted will remain unconverted.

As the deluded sex pest manqué, Buckley is brilliant as ever, conveying just the right amount of cocksurity and crumbling vulnerability. Harrison is equally watchable as Neil, the happy-go-lucky fool who expresses more than he knows. Thomas has to work hardest as the most normal of the quartet and the strain occasionally shows, but he brings a degree of heart to the story otherwise lacking. And there’s something really satisfying about Bird’s performance, as Will’s self-deprecation and flourishing wit shows signs of endearing him to unfeasibly stunning women.

Perhaps that’s because the film is such a geeky, lads mag fantasy. Jay’s assertion that the holiday will be ‘like shooting clunge in a barrel’ is rather too prophetic, every single female character, and indeed the villain and Greeks, having all the depth of the pixels on his laptop, the story’s outcome evident from that first night on the town. A typical sitcom adaptation movie then, safe, predictable and merely repeating what made it so popular on a larger scale.

Review by: Jay Richardson

Review date: 1 Jan 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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