Let’s straighten something out right from the start: The Inbetweeners Movie isn’t Kevin And Perry Go Large. While that misjudged sketch show off-shoot failed to inspire any emotion other than a gag reflex amongst many (although it cleaned up at the box office), The Inbetweeners Movie is a love letter to innocent teenage years, and a sweet and good-natured look back at the milestone of the first lad’s holiday.
On the surface, the story of The Inbetweeners Movie isn’t actually a million miles away from Kevin And Perry. But here, it’s worked into a British coming of age film fit to be mentioned in the same breath as US efforts like Superbad and American Pie. It’s crude, rude, importantly funny and essentially tragic. The important thing is, it isn’t a disaster. It’s really rather good.
And it could so easily have gone wrong. Sitcoms have a bad reputation for jumping the gun to the cinemas, only to tarnish the work they’ve built up on TV. There’s often something very un-Hollywood about British comedy shows, and so it can often feel like they’ve sold their soul to the industry. Thankfully, the characters here are exactly the same as they always were. That’s a vital ingredient when dealing with a group whose entire appeal is their static, everyman lives.
The Inbetweeners Movie picks up where the show left things. Simon’s (Joe Thomas) finally going out with Carly (Emily Head), Jay’s (James Buckley) still making up stories about his many escapades, and Neil’s (Blake Harrison) snogging someone from the supermarket. Will’s (Simon Bird) still Will, which means he’s being awkward and clueless, something his father (Anthony Stewart Head) is all too keen to pick up on.
But when Carly unceremoniously dumps Simon, the boys decide to go on a traditional lad’s holiday to Malia to cheer him up, get drunk and pick up loads of girls.
What happens next could have happened on the show, were the locations, money and resources available. There’s a sense of scale to the film that has never been present on E4, but the normality of everyone involved always comes round to ground things in reality.
There’s a slow motion walk through the airport close to the film’s beginning, and it’s closely followed by the realisation from the four leads that their flight’s been delayed for seven hours and their t-shirts (‘Pussay Patrol’) are too offensive to be worn on board. And so it goes on. Whenever there’s a moment of potential poignancy or Hollywood sheen allowed to creep into the edges of the frame, it’s quickly brought crashing down into the grim reality us Brits do so well.
Things obviously don’t go to plan, and there’s an overriding sense that the boys will go their separate ways come their return home. This separation after school is something that’s been dealt with a lot, but it’s not discussed at any length during The Inbetweeners TV show. It’s not touched on much in the movie, either. The four of them were always unnatural friends, and these personality clashes and tensions explode more than once across the duration of the holiday. Yet one look at Jay’s face when he realises he’s being left behind says everything lesser films might spend half an hour explaining.
The tagline for the film tells us that ‘boys will become men’, but that’s not what The Inbetweeners has ever been about. They have their little triumphs alongside the embarrassing moments and hilarious situations, and you’ll leave the cinema with a smile and comforting sense that they’d be alright in the end.
The movie is a rare beast in that, instead of riding on the show’s success for the sake of it, it rounds the story off, ruining none of the show’s charming simplicity in the process. It’s a real achievement, and a film that deserves a lot of success for not only successfully navigating a tricky path, but also delivering a thumping good comedy in the process.