Continuing a television series onto the big screen with stories and stars intact can be a difficult prospect… just ask Mulder and Scully. There’s no guarantee moviegoers will know, remember or care about what these characters went through on TV, so you’re stuck with an important decision. Do you spend valuable feature time repeating or recreating that backstory, or do you just pick up where the show left off and hope viewers are willing to fill in the blanks?
The Inbetweeners Movie is a continuation of the extremely popular UK series that ran for three successful seasons on E4. The show is about a quartet of friends muddling their way through their awkward high school years, and the film starts with their graduation. They decide a celebratory vacation is in order for their last summer together and plan a blowout trip to Spain in the hopes of drinking, dancing and shagging their way into adulthood.
Shockingly, the trip doesn’t quite end up like they expected. Sadly, the movie follows suit. Character depth and nuance earned over three seasons on TV is nowhere to be found as all four lead characters seemingly revert back to the utterly clueless and often unlikeable dorks they were in the very first episode. Go into the movie with no knowledge of the show, and these guys are little more than pricks who occasionally get into funny situations. Go into it as a fan of the series, and you risk disappointment that what made the show special has been replaced with a script rejected from the direct-to-DVD American Pie films.
The four share in their idiocy and lust for girls, but they each have unique characteristics that drive their own personal stories. Simon (Joe Thomas) is the group’s de facto leader, but in many ways he’s also the stupidest. He spends much of the series and most of the movie chasing his high school crush Carli (Emily Head) when it’s ridiculously obvious the relationship is not meant to be, and he’s so gullible that he lets a douchebag talk him into stripping down in public. Will (Simon Bird) is the show/movie’s narrator and the newest member of the group, and while he’s an incredible nerd it’s of the anal retentive type not the sci-fi-loving kind. Jay (James Buckley) is the resident horndog who speaks in foul-mouthed lies about his accomplishments and intentions that don’t come close to his reality. Neil (Blake Harrison) meanwhile is quite possibly brain-damaged, but he doesn’t let that get in the way of nailing the ladies.
These surface characteristics are just that in the show, but here they’re the entirety of the characters. The fears, truths and desires that made them relatable on TV are absent, and we’re left with four funny actors making the best of an uninspired script.
I’m being harsher on the film than I intended.
The setup sees the four booked into a multi-story urinal of a hotel that feels more at home in war-torn Bosnia than a resort-town in Spain, but they’re not about to let that get them down when there are wet birds just waiting to get off with recent high school graduates. They meet up with a quartet of girls early on that conveniently offer perfectly suitable matches for each of the guys even if it does take the duration of the film for our boys to realize it. One of the girls (played by Lydia Rose Bawley) is paired with Jay, but her large frame is an issue for the self-described Lothario who prefers his ladies be a bit more fit. Fans of the show know immediately where this going, but when the inevitable happens it’s an unearned development.
I’m doing it again.
There are laughs to be found thanks mostly to the four lead performers who prove themselves game for anything and everything under the sun. Bird and Buckley remain the standouts with their delivery raising a line’s laugh factor noticeably. They make even the lesser jokes and gags work when they probably shouldn’t. Director Ben Palmer makes his feature debut here from a script co-written by series creator Iain Morris, and the film flows well even as it moves from predictable situation to expected outcome.
The Inbetweeners Movie is an unfortunate blessing in some ways because while it’s not nearly as good as the show that spawned it the film’s immense success almost guarantees a sequel. (It grossed $90 million on a $5 million budget so expect The Inbetweeners Go to College in a year or so.) With any luck a second film will find room for the humanity and heart absent here even if that means they have to cut a dick shot. Or two. If you’ve never seen the show, do yourself a favor and skip the movie for now. Pick up the complete series on DVD, laugh your ass off and come back to the film as a fan. Sure you’ll be disappointed, but at least you’ll have memories of what it could have been.
The Upside: The four leads have strong chemistry and continue to have fun with their characters
The Downside: Laughs are limited and mostly uninspired; the heart earned throughout the series is nowhere to be seen here
On the Side: The Inbetweeners Movie broke box-office records and eventually out-earned Transformers 3, the latest Twilight and The Hangover 2 in the UK