REVIEW: The Inbetweeners Movie (2011)

In case you’ve been living under a rock, people have been flocking to cinemas to see The Inbetweeners lads nip off to Malia in Crete for a drunken jolly this summer. Will, Simon, Jay and Neil – all sporting pink T-shirts calling themselves ‘The Pussay Patrol’ – set off for a post-sixth form piss-up in the sunshine on the hunt for clunge and Jägermeister shots in The Inbetweeners Movie and the results are, quite predictably, hilarious. 

There’s something about Brits going abroad on a drunken rampage which always provokes a storm of interest. At the height of the late-’90s Ibiza-centric Trance boom, Kevin & Perry Go Large made a mint off the back of a terrible script and naff jokes, so it should come as no surprise that some have unimaginatively named Harry Enfield’s sketch show movie spin-off as an antecedent, but I’d argue The Inbetweeners Movie trounces it on quality and, need I say it, critical success.

As I write this, The Inbetweeners Movie has raked in £3.7 million in UK box office receipts and, let’s be honest, if there’s anything Brits appreciate most, it’s failure. So the fact that The Inbetweeners has been so sickeningly successful almost makes the inner cynic lurking inside me to hate it. But why? I am a fan, after all. The Inbetweeners TV sitcom was often note-perfect and continually fired on all cylinders, largely due to the superb writing talents of Damon Beesley and Iain Morris, not to mention the refreshingly well-rounded characters considering the show’s initially unattractive E4 origins.

From day one, what appealed to me the most about The Inbetweeners was that it reminded me of my own schooldays. I had a bullshitting friend who was exactly the same as Jay, for instance. I saw a bit of myself in Simon (and, to a small extent, Will) and the joshing and belittling way the characters spoke to one another struck a deep chord with me as it reminded me of my own peer group. However, I’m willing to admit I was slightly disappointed with the final series, as I felt as if it had become too predictable in its use of crude but crowd-pleasing nob gags in the face of its unexpected popularity (3.3 million Facebook fans, anyone?). But on the whole, The Inbetweeners deserves the critical acclaim it has received, so I won’t deny that a film spin-off is welcome.

Judging by some of my friends comments, I was prepared for The Inbetweeners Movie to be much ruder and more daring than its TV-shackled forebear, but I was pleasantly surprised to see it wasn’t really any different. After all, why tamper with a formula so many people already love? It’s basically like an extended TV episode, but with an extra dose of nudity. As usual, the interplay between the characters has a warmth in spite of all the sniping and Will, Simon, Jay and Neil all get their own distinctive moments to shine. I must say, however, that Simon Bird’s performance as Will is top-notch and the dialogue he shares with his potential love interest, Alison (Laura Haddock) is a great example of perfect characterisation and impeccably well-written. You’d almost think Will and Alison were on the same wavelength, which is almost impossible to believe, knowing Will’s cringe-inducing pedigree.

As you can see in the official trailer, the bit in the bar in which Neil resorts to his trademark ‘robot dance’ to woo the ladies was probably my personal favourite scene, as for the first time the other lads join in and it drags on for absolutely ages. However, there are plenty of other funny moments and scenes, including the one by the swimming pool in which Simon has to smear sun lotion onto Will’s back and Jay has a run-in with a Spanish kid who mocks his Man Utd swimming shorts. There’s also a hugely quotable compendium of Jay’s potty-mouthed one-liners which burn into your brain like suicide shots (“Those little ponies need feeding. Feed the pony!”).

If this is the last we see of The Inbetweeners lads, it’s definitely a fitting send-off. The unrelenting embarrassment and humiliation these characters are subjected to throughout the film shows that the writers are not willing to make concessions to sentimentality for the sake of a soppy farewell. They plan to go out exactly as they came in, putting pen to paper and making the lads go through hell, right until the last moment. By and large, this is what makes The Inbetweeners Movie so worthy of praise – it’s a testament to fantastic scriptwriting by Damon Beesley and Iain Morris, a gift for eccentricity and wit which most British TV writers have only very rarely mastered, but when they do, they excel at it.

For that reason, The Inbetweeners Movie certainly doesn’t deserve to be a failure. In fact, I wish it all the success in the world. All in all, I’m not going to say The Inbetweeners Movie is a masterpiece, because it’s clearly not and it probably never wanted to be one. But it is – in Will’s words – brilliant. Now, what are the chances of a sequel?!

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