21 August 2011

Movie Review: The Inbetweeners Movie


C+

The Inbetweeners Movie
2011, 97mins, 15
Director: Ben Palmer
Writer (s): Iain Morris, Damon Beesley
Cast includes: Simon Bird, James Buckley, Blake Harrison, Joe Thomas, Laura Haddock, Emily Head
UK Release Date: 19th August 2011

Since its first appearance on British television in 2008, “The Inbetweeners” has pretty much become a modern comedic institution. Following a group of socially inept 18 year-old boys, the show amassed a following thanks to its boundary busting vulgarity, clever writing and gut wrenching honesty. With the television portion of these characters’ lives now seemingly complete (the third series climaxed in 2010), the creators have bumped this troubled quartet of cretins up to the big screen for a final hurrah. “The Inbetweeners Movie” captures much of the humour that rendered the show such a deserved success, but it also makes several critical missteps outside of its comic aspirations, especially when it comes to depicting the lads finding romance on a gnarly holiday.

Will (Simon Bird), Jay (James Buckley), Simon (Joe Thomas) and Neil (Blake Harrison) are about to leave their school years behind them, preparing to move into the realms of university and work in the coming months. When Simon’s long-term crush Carli (Emily Head) dumps him, the boys decide that a holiday is in order, heading to Malia in Greece for a fortnight of booze, relaxation and hopefully sex. On arrival their accommodation turns out to be dingy, the locals less than friendly and their own group dynamic threatened by rivalries and disappointments. As the getaway goes from bad to worse, hope arrives in the form of a gaggle of girls, chiefly Alison (Laura Haddock, “Captain America The First Avenger”), a young woman who strikes up a strong bond with nebbish Will.

“The Inbetweeners Movie” feels like it belongs on TV, the feature more of an extended episode than an accomplished motion picture. Visually director Ben Palmer has done very little to distinguish his work here from that on the show itself, save for a few unsubtle camera tricks in the glitzy party central of Malia. The pacing also feels incredibly uneven, the filmmakers sending the characters on their way promptly, but the holiday adventuring never finds the correct momentum. Events seem to occur out of sync with the emotional core of the picture, and at 97 minutes the film is definitely overstretched. This is a story that could’ve unfolded effectively as an hour-long TV special, but instead writers Iain Morris and Damon Beesley stagger the plot unnecessarily. As a result of this bloated presentation some of the punch associated with “The Inbetweeners” feels absent.

The movie offers a respectable belly laugh quota, even if it lunges for the obvious joke a little too readily. As was the case on TV, the tale is narrated by nerdy Will; Simon Bird’s phenomenal delivery and the character’s sly observations amounting to several hysterical line readings. The larger set-pieces are also pretty good, particularly those involving ridiculous dance moves, anthills and bizarre masturbatory practices (snorkels and ham go hand in hand here). The dialogue also retains its freshness and believability, the writers once again perfectly replicating the crude conversation that goes on between boys of a certain age. It’s always pleasant to see writers utilize profanity so creatively, but the creators are very aware that it’s all bravado, a front for these scared and na├»ve teens to hide behind. It’s that truthfulness and relatable sensibility which made the TV show so popular. Thusly it’s nice to observe that particular quality making its way into the film.

The cast are all fine, particularly the female newcomers played gamely by Haddock, Tamla Kari, Lydia Rose Bewley and Jessica Knappet. What doesn’t gel are some of the writing choices made surrounding these characters, namely that they’d still be interested in frequenting with the boys after being treated so poorly by some of them. The chemistry between Haddock and Bird is adequate, but the other blossoming relationships don’t work, particularly that between Thomas and Kari. There’s a mean chauvinistic streak here, it’s actively uncomfortable to watch Thomas so arrogantly overlook Kari, only for her to come panting after him with every evolving scene. Relations within the central gang are somewhat better, with special mention going to a tender moment between Buckley’s Jay and Thomas’s Simon. It’s a poignant addition to the tale, subtly underplayed by both actors as they come to grips with possibly saying goodbye. It draws comparisons to “Superbad” for all the right reasons.

“The Inbetweeners Movie” is lightly entertaining but it doesn’t quite do its source full justice. It makes for a sharper ending than the last few episodes of the third season (where the concept was visibly running out of steam), but as a singular entity it’s riddled with irritating niggles. One should also mention that some attachment to the characters is vital for the film to land any of its intended impact, without prior exposure to this squad of reprobates your viewing will drag hard and often.

In the pantheon of TV to film adaptations “The Inbetweeners Movie” ranks above average. As a self-contained teen comedy it’s several notches below the respective genre highpoints.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2011

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