Top 10 films of 2011: The Inbetweeners Movie

Top 10 Caroline Preece
20 Dec 2011 - 15:58

Who’s at number six in Den Of Geek’s ten favourite films of 2011? It’s The Inbetweeners Movie, and here’s Caroline to tell us why it’s so great…

Over the past few weeks, Den Of Geek writers have been voting for the films of the year. It's a democratic vote, which inevitably means that things end up in a slightly funny order that not one individual writer is likely to fully agree with. But it's still a fine list. Here's entry number four…

6th place:
The Inbetweeners Movie

Movie spin-offs from British television sitcoms have a history that could be called chequered at best. Although we’ve been blessed with great films like In The Loop (from The Thick of It) in recent years, not many people were feeling optimistic about The Inbetweeners Movie. The show’s appeal was widespread and niche at the same time, and that’s a tricky combination to pull off for the big screen.

Then there were the absence of any big name stars, a very British sensibility that was unlikely to travel overseas, and a plot that resembled Kevin And Perry Go Large in all the wrong ways. Will (Simon Bird), Simon (Joe Thomas), Jay (James Buckley) and Neil (Blake Harrison) had finally departed sixth-form, and the 20-minute sitcom had outgrown the joke which had made it so popular.

Instead of following the foursome around their suburban town, marvelling at their tragically mundane lives and remembering a time when we were similarly young, naïve and hell-bent on telling the most taboo-ridden joke ever, the group were off to Malia, embarking on all the smutty potential that scenario entails. It was a big risk, coming from the original writers and creators, Iain Morris and Damon Beesley, but it’s safe to say, given its place on this list, that the risk paid off.

What emerged was not an assault on what had been so special about The Inbetweeners, as everyone had feared, but a continuation of four characters that we had no idea were so well written. Fans of the show were aware of their affection for the comedy, nostalgia and intermittent poignancy those 20-minute episodes had contained, but the film did something television never could: it made you care about the boys. These were just like real people, and real people grow up.

They also grow apart, and by far the strongest element of the movie was its unwillingness to shy away from that reality. You’re aware from the first frame, owing mostly to the assurances of Morris and Beesley, that this is most likely the last you’ll see of the group. The film was always supposed to be a last hurrah for everyone involved, and the movie managed the almost impossible task of balancing laugh-out-loud comedy, excessive set pieces and real drama.

That might sound strange for something with the word ‘clunge’ in the tagline, but it’s this well-hidden nuance that was The Inbetweeners’ secret weapon all along. The traditional post-education lads’ holiday to a hotspot of tawdry excess turned out to be the perfect setting, as the inevitable disappointment of a first solo holiday mirrors the unknown nature of the lives that lie ahead of them. It would have been enough for the film to make us laugh, but they went one step further and made us feel.

I’ve made it sound like a sob-fest, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, anyone with a passing affection for the TV series will exit the cinema with a huge grin on their face. In an age of gritty comic-book movies and social commentary, a sense of sweet, good naturedness is hard to find in the multiplex and, even though the smutty humour might not be to everyone’s taste, it’s expertly written comedy that carries the same taboo-ridden flair which made the show so distinctive.

The standout performance comes from James Buckley, slated for big things following his take on Jay, and he deserves all the work he’ll more than likely get in the future. The character encompasses everything great about this movie, as his growing desperation and crippling insecurity starts to emerge from behind the comedy. A scene in which he realises he’ll be left behind is pitch-perfect, and these moments are afforded by the extended running time of a film, rounding off the story’s themes in a really lovely way.

The nostalgic aura and cross-generational potential of The Inbetweeners Movie is something that only graces a film once in a while. The massive box-office takings are stone cold proof of its popularity and, even if this is the last we do see of Will, Simon, Jay and Neil, it was a stonking good ride that deserves to be applauded. None of the original charm was lost in the journey from small to big screen, and the bravery of its ideas shine through between the belly laughs and wonderful gags.

It should have been doomed, but instead, it emerged as one of the best films of the year.

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