'The Inbetweeners' Boasts A High Gag-Rate
Lacking both the biting social commentary of Shameless and the purely hedonistic verve of Skins, small-screen British teen comedy The Inbetweeners' winning formula lay squarely with its easy interplay between the central characters. Four high school chums who are not exactly attractive and popular, but not exactly nerds and geeks either — they're in between. Perennially on the prowl for female company (which they virtually never get) and endlessly trying to raise their credibility amongst their peers (which they almost never do), the realistic, relatable portrayal of the adolescent wilderness experienced by the other, other 98% elevated the series in its native Britain to something approaching a national treasure.
The trick with any big screen adaptation of a television series is expanding it to fit the lengthier format, while taking care not to lose sight of what made it great in the first place. In this regard, The Inbetweeners movie is not entirely successful. Transplanting posh-boy Will (Simon Bird), mollycoddled Simon (Joe Thomas), dim-bulb Neil (Blake Harrison) and boorish bullshitter Jay (James Buckley) to Crete for one last post-graduation hurrah makes the script feel decidedly small in scope and oddly reluctant to try much in the way of new things, even dragging wholesale the neverending saga of Simon and now ex-girlfriend Carli (Emily Head) along as the central spine of the story.
Still boasting a gag-rate rivaling any comedy this year, the hopeless meandering of these libido-driven wannabes ticks all the requisite boxes for a holiday-from-hell caper. There's teen-on-pensioner action, disgusting accommodations, a healthy dose of scat humor and a surprising amount of male nudity from the fab four (you will come to know their naked rear ends intimately). Not that the humor is entirely confined to that of the gross-out variety, thanks to a cringe-inducing display of inept disco dancing and the delightfully non-sequitur ramblings of resort rat Richard (Theo Barklem-Biggs) as clear standouts.
The heart and soul, of course, has always been the enduring friendship of the lads, and your enjoyment of the movie is directly tied to your affection for these characters, which is a tough ask considering that the primary gag with at least two of them is that they're such insufferable twats. By the end, the film has managed to ask some telling questions and, with college looming, raise the possibility that perhaps they have come to the end of their journey together? At least until an impressive domestic box office haul guaranteed a sequel.
Even if everything you know about The Inbetweeners totals hearing that the pale US remake was crap and a waste of time, there is a very good reason they bothered to attempt it at all. Down-to-earth and endearing, while at the same time wild and irreverent, The Inbetweeners is one of the best British exports of recent times. Seek it out.