Thursday, 25 August 2011
'The Inbetweeners Movie' review:
British TV comedies making the transition to feature films have a track record that could charitably be characterised as less than stellar. 'The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse', 'Ali G Indahouse' and 'Kevin & Perry Go Large' are just some examples of what can go wrong when perfectly decent telly fodder gets inflated for the big screen. On paper at least, this year's blown-up cinema edition of Channel Four sitcom 'The Inbetweeners' - which comes with the no-nonsense title: 'The Inbetweeners Movie' - would seem to be following the same dreary trend, especially as it uses the tired "let's take the characters abroad" concept as the basis of its story.
Yet Film Four have bucked the trend winsomely with Ben Palmer - a director of the original series - presiding over what amounts to a high-quality bumper episode of the show. The film maintains a strong gag ratio as well as the astute character observations that serve as the series' best moments, all without jumping the shark in some bombast, hi-octane fashion. It's a consistently funny 97 minutes which sees Will (Simon Bird), Simon (Joe Thomas), Jay (James Buckley) and Neil (Blake Harrison) leave sixth form and embark on a sun-soaked summer holiday in Crete with the familiar aim of getting drunk and getting laid.
However, as anyone who's spent even minimal time in these characters' company before will know, our "heroes" aren't the coolest kids from their school. Jay talks a good game about sexual encounters, but is actually the most shy of the bunch when confronted with the "pussay" he so craves. Bespectacled Will, who again also serves as the narrator, talks himself into trouble at every turn with his boundless pedantry. Whilst Simon is as love-sick and self-involved as ever, especially now that his on-again off-again relationship with Carli (Emily Head) has hit the rocks indefinitely. Only shameless dim-wit Neil is without an obvious personality defect, in a strange way serving as the member of the group with the most appealing world view - even coming across as a good-natured innocent as he performs grotesque sex acts on game OAPs.
The Brits abroad setting allows for the digs at package holiday culture you might expect, but the film takes great pleasure in subverting clichés rather than conforming to them. The attractive girls who instantly and improbably fall for the boys are never treated as tacky FHM eye-candy either (with the vast majority of screen nudity being male) and the dynamic between the four main guys remains as engaging as ever. The actors might be in their mid-late twenties, but 'The Inbetweeners' has always been a far more realistic depiction of youth than we're used to seeing in the sexed-up, hyper-cool world of American "High School" films, or Channel Four's own 'Skins'.
Various narrative norms are also subverted to great effect, with each potential moment of sincere romantic feeling or dramatic heft immediately undercut with humour. This is a balls-out comedy that never pushes the dramatic envelope any further than its audience wants to go. It's content to entertain you, though that's not to say that the touching vulnerability of the four guys doesn't still shine through in a movie which always has its heart in the right place however crass and puerile it gets.
'The Inbetweeners Movie' is out in the UK now, rated '15' by the BBFC.