At the announcement of an Inbetweeners movie I was filled with dread. The series had been strong until its last season where it seemed to be overcome with gross out humour, lazy humour and one particularly unnerving instance where Simon tried to literally beat himself into an erection. That’s not to say there weren’t some funny moments, such as where Jay tried to pass off tea as weed. These moments were unfortunately far and few between for a hit comedy series. Yet, now there seems to be some sort of trend where gross out humour is actually funny, but really there’s only so many times you can watch someone throw up on something important or on someone else and laugh. Sometimes the scene just gets uncomfortable, and that isn’t really comedy.
So, understandably, the announcement of an Inbetweeners movie did make me rather apprehensive because I expected it to follow the footsteps of The Hangover 2 and Bridesmaids. These films are funny too, but The Hangover 2 had the same problem that sometimes the comedy drained out of a scene and it just became awkward. People would nervously laugh, as though appealing to some kind of comedy God and hoping that if their laughter appeased the God the awful sequence might stop. Simon beating himself in the last series fits this as much as the transvestite scene in The Hangover 2. We can only be thankful that Bridesmaids never wandered into this territory.
Of course, it’s possible the awkward prolonged segment of gross out humour is reserved for tie-ins and sequels, since Bridesmaids never really veered into that territory and The Hangover’s first outing managed to be humorous without it. There’s a difference between genuine originality and just taking whatever comes to mind, never mind how base and crude. I hate to imagine what depths The Hangover 3 might sink to. However, all that said, I must admit, The Inbetweeners Movie wasn’t half as bad as I expected it to be.
Oh, there was still gross out humour and almost all of the boys got naked at one point of another but none of it was prolonged or lingering. There is a moment in a club where a male stripper performs self-fellatio, but it comes and goes rather quickly, thankfully. Certainly none of it was really so awkward that I didn’t want to watch, so I’d actually state that the movie has improved upon the last season to not only make a decent come back but send off the series as a whole on a high note. Can I say that it is the best film I’ve seen all year? No, not even close, but it made me laugh and that’s basically what you want from a comedy.
In case you don’t know, The Inbetweeners is a British television show following the lives of four boys in high school, Will, Simon, Jay and Neil, played by actors Simon Bird, Joe Thomas, James Buckley and Blake Harrison respectively. At the start of the film, they’ve just finished high school, and the status quo is quickly established. Will is intellectual and derisive of the other’s antics; Neil is still completely carefree to the point of being like a hyperactive dog, Jay’s pursuit of ‘clunge’ is as depraved as ever and Simon is still completely unsuccessful with women. To mark the end of their high school experience they decide to head to Malia as one massive send off.
Hilarity ensues as expected when they go to what must be one of the emptiest clubs on the entire island of Crete, stay in apartments which clearly haven’t been cleaned since the dawn of time and manage to steal loungers from a disabled girl and her parents. The plot itself is fairly substantial however, with four clear story threads revolving around each boy. Will’s is the pursuit of a girl, who already has a boyfriend, Neil’s constant sexual exploits revolve around only going so far as to not count as cheating, Simon constantly sees Carli everywhere to the point where he almost actively ignores any other girl taking an interest in him, and Jay, well, Jay just doesn’t want to end up with the chubby chick. Actually, Jay does have a moment of seriousness when he realises Simon is going to university to study sociology (curiously, has he ever really showed an interest in sociology?) and their friendship will have to endure the long distance. This is clearly why it is the end of the series, and the producers obviously realised that to prolong it into university would just be sad. That or they realised they had run out of stories for the series.
Unlike the series, Jay and Simon seem to be at the butt of most jokes, from Jay getting the slightly overweight girl and being de-bagged by a child at a pool, or Simon being nearly run over. This accumulates in the most pathetic fight ever. During the series, Will would have been the one being picked on, but aside from getting a sunburnt penis on his back and called weird by Anthony Head he got on incredibly well with the others for the duration of the trip. Simon Bird always has stood out among the others to the extend where he almost derailed the last season because he wanted more money, so honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if his contract for the movie had included a few new clauses stating that he had to get the prettiest girl, make the least mistakes and be the one vomiting, rather than the one vomited on. His story was on the whole surprisingly pleasant.
Speaking of surprisingly pleasant, so was the ending. Spoilers ahead, although at this point I’d imagine anyone who hasn’t seen the film doesn’t care and anyone reading this that hasn’t seen the film has already heard most of the details from their friends. The Inbetweeners have often ended up in awkward situations requiring an ambulance, the police, or having to shuffle home in the dead of night filled with guilt and shame. In fact, I’d go so far to say that guilt and shame two of the major emotions throughout the series. This applies less so to the film though. I suppose it is partly because the film is meant to be seen as one last hurrah and people going to the cinema probably want comedy more based on silly hi-jinks than watch a few high school kids begrudgingly head home after a terrible holiday where nothing went right for them. Perhaps for this reason, the film ends with a sort of happily ever after. All of the boys have their girls, Will and Simon are going to university and Jay has at least crossed the sexual threshold. The only character who perhaps hasn’t ended on the best note is Neil who is last seen dragging his new girlfriend from his existing girlfriend in the airport because he lied about being single. Neil being Neil though, the audience has a sort of assurance that he’s so carefree that he’ll muddle through somehow and still come out feeling pretty swell. This might have something to do with telling Will he doesn’t believe in God because it is simply dog spelt backwards.
While it certainly isn’t the best film of the year, I enjoyed it. As far as the current gross out comedies go, this one was about average; not as good as The Hangover but better than The Hangover 2. Bridesmaids is probably just slightly better. As a send off for the series, I think that it did the job well by giving us one last adventure and assuring us that our wayward protagonists will have decent lives in the big bad world. In some ways, we empathise with Anthony Head as Will’s father who sheds a tear when he sees the photo of Will and Alison (played by Laura Haddock). We’ve watched these characters try to grow up and usually fail to mature. It was surprising but it’s nice to see a happy ending for them all.
As one last point, can we stop the gross out comedies now? I know the Hangover 3 is still to come, but after Spy Kids 4 does gross out with scratch and sniff cards, I think we’ve sucked this well dry.