There’s a fine line between sidesplittingly funny and vomit-inducingly gross
The Inbetweeners Movie proved to be a charming, funny and surprisingly moving send off to all the characters we loved from the TV series.Unfortunately it made more money at the UK box office than just about any movie except Avatar. As a result a sequel was inevitable, even though the original movie had acted as the perfect send-off to Will, Simon, Jay and Neil after three very popular seasons on Channel 4. That left the writers Damon Beesley and Iain Morris in something of a quandary because having carefully structured the first film to have an emotional arc and a very satisfying conclusion, they now had to undo all their hard work.
In the original film, the four boys finish sixth form and head off on a summer holiday before their lives change forever. It managed to be both funny and moving, ultimately coming across like an English version of Stand By Me although without the dead body and a lot more knob jokes. The writers were the first to admit that sending their characters on holiday for the film was something of a cliche as film versions of British TV series are often set abroad in order to add a bit of glamour.
However within the context of The Inbetweeners Movie the concept of the foreign holiday worked extremely well and allowed the writers to introduce four girl characters who effectively acted like female versions of the boys themselves and who ended up with them at the end. Some of the best scenes in the first film revolved around the interaction between the boys and the girls and pleasingly they were also well written characters and not just eye candy, which made their scenes all the more enjoyable.
Sadly the writers had to undo much of their earlier success when conceiving the sequel, in much the same way that Alien 3 ruined all James Cameron’s hard work on Aliens by immediately killing Hicks and Newt at the start of the third film. In the case of The Inbetweeners 2, Will and Neil’s girlfriends have simply vanished and their absence is explained by a single line about everyone getting dumped. Jay’s girlfriend Jane is reduced to a cameo, which only leaves Simon’s girlfriend Lucy with any serious screen time. So it’s even more depressing that the writers feel the need to completely change her character, turning her into a jealous harridan who makes Simon’s life a misery.
The sequel largely undoes all that was achieved in the first Inbetweeners Movie.
The film also repeats the going on holiday plot of the first film but this time the boys head off to Australia to meet up with Jay who has been working there for a few months. The sequence where Jay makes various ludicrous claims about his adventures in Australia, delivered directly to camera in the style of The Wolf of Wall Street, is one of the comic highlights of the film. Needless to say things are not as he claims and the four end up back-packing around Oz for no other reason than to string together a series of comic set pieces.
Unfortunately these scenes range from the funny to the truly gross and that’s where the film really falls down. The beauty of the TV series was that it was a perfectly observed comic recreation of most people’s time at school. The majority of us spent those formative years being neither cool nor geeky but 'inbetweeners', just like the characters themselves. The writers perfectly captured the language of boys in their late teens; their fears, their desires and their capacity to lie through their teeth about their sexual exploits or, more likely, lack of them.
Yes there were some fairly gross moments but they were always delivered in a realistic, sympathetic and slightly innocent way. When Simon throws up over Carli’s little brother in the TV series it’s funny because we can all relate to being sick after drinking too much. We’re prepared to bet most of you haven’t had your testicles licked by a dog, been hit in the face by excrement or urinated on.
The writers seem to be trying to outdo themselves and their contemporaries in the gross-out stakes and unfortunately the film loses much of its charm as a result. All the female characters are horribly under-written or act out of character, whilst the Australian locations may give the filmmakers the chance to show off their bigger budget but it also allows them to milk every Aussie cliche in the book for cheap laughs.
There are plenty of laughs to be had, it's just that we expected more from all those involved.
That's not to say that the film isn't funny and there are plenty of laughs to be had, it's just that after the TV series and the first movie we expected more. The main cast of Simon Bird (Will), James Buckley (Jay), Joe Thomas (Simon) and Blake Harrison (Neil) remain endearing and all four still manage to pull off looking like they're in their late teens despite being nearly thirty. The rest of the cast includes Tamla Kari as the now psychotic Lucy and Emily Berrington as newcomer Katie. There's also Freddie Stroma as Ben, the kind of annoyingly smug posh kid who goes travelling and becomes utterly insufferable. There are also a number of returning cast members from the series but once again their characters seem to just be there to generate cheap laughs.
The filmmakers certainly make the most of their bigger budget, giving the film a glossy sheen that makes full use of their exotic Australian locations. They also find time to create a number of film pastiches in the pursuit of more laughs, although they often feel out of character with what has gone before. Ultimately The Inbetweeners 2 delivers plenty of laughs and will undoubtedly be hugely successful but it feels like a film too many and it really doesn't know when to stop. At least the writers don't put themselves in a narrative corner, leaving the ending open for the inevitable third film in the series but, after this, we won't be looking forward to it anywhere near as much.
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