The first Inbetweeners film made £45 million at the box office, and was such an unexpected smash there was always going to be a second one, which is fair enough. It is based on the TV sitcom (Channel 4, 2008–2010), which was a favourite in our house, not that I was ever allowed to watch it in the same room at the same time as my then teenage son. Why? I would want to know. Because you think I don’t know what ‘clunge’ is? Listen, I’ve had a clunge since before you were born. In fact, you wouldn’t have even been born had it not been for my clunge. But this only made him exit the room even faster, for some reason.
They are daft, teenage boys; filthy-minded, but also sensationally innocent, which is exactly what made The Inbetweeners such hilarious fun. True, we may be witnessing the beginning of the end — how old is Simon Bird now? 47? — and it can’t keep out-grossing itself, joke-wise, for ever, but I did still laugh. Out loud. How often does that happen? Almost never, and I was as shocked as anybody. ‘What is that noise?’ I asked myself. Christ, I’m laughing. Out loud. The boys, our no-hopers, are all here, obviously. That is, Will (Simon Bird; 47), the geeky one who knows he will never be cool, and Jay (James Buckley; 56), who is all hollow braggadocio, and Simon (Joe Thomas; 72), who is the most put-upon, and Neil (Blake Harrison; 112), who is by far the weakest character. They are all dim but Neil’s especial dimness, when he has no other traits, does rather bore the pants off me (but not literally, and certainly not in front of the children). They were still schoolboys for the television series, sixth-formers ‘in between’ childhood and adulthood, and dispatched to Crete for the first film, where they drank, tried to have sex, didn’t have sex, drank some more, and spewed. This time out it is Australia, and if you have to ask why, you are not thinking ‘Down Under’ and ‘bush’, and how such terms might be thrashed to within an inch of their lives, and then thrashed some more.
As the new film begins, Jay is working in Australia (which is ‘Down Under’ and has ‘a bush’ but don’t worry if you forget, as you will be reminded). Jay, via a splendid fantasy sequence that is itself a send-up of one of Martin Scorsese’s tracking shots (I think), sends a message home. It is all going spectacularly well, he says. He is a superstar DJ (‘DJ Big Penis’) and lives in a mansion and has had both Minogues and wakes to a blowie every morning. This provides an excuse for his friends to visit, although, on their arrival, and on discovering Jay’s claims have been somewhat exaggerated — knowing Jay, they couldn’t predict this? — they embark on a road trip in pursuit of a pretty girl (Emily Berrington) who is also being pursued by Ben (Freddie Stroma), a handsome ‘gap yah’ posh boy with trustafarian dreadlocks …wait. Do we actually care about the plot? When it only exists to string together the set pieces?
So, the set pieces, which are so incredibly disgusting that I may only have laughed to suppress my own gag reflexes. There is urinating in people’s faces. There is spew. There are loose bowels. There’s a poo; a poo that chases Will down a flume at a water-park. Just as American Pie always had to out-American Pie itself, so The Inbetweeners now has to out-Inbetweeners itself, which is, in some ways, a pity, as it’s at its best during its quieter moments. Will’s verbal takedown of Ben is quite marvellous, as is his attempt to woo Emily with Roberta Flack’s ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’; a performance so hysterically dreadful I thought I might never uncringe again. Plus, when Jay drops all that hollow braggadocio and finally confesses his true reason for visiting ‘Down Under’, with its ‘bush’, and his lower lip trembles horribly, I not only laughed — out loud! — but also felt quite affected by his vulnerability.
The fact is, if you are a fan of The Inbetweeners, as I am, you will like this, as it’s more of the same, and if you’re not, then you simply won’t. There has, I should mention, been something of a feminist backlash, claiming it’s all hatefully sexist and misogynist, and while it’s true it wouldn’t so much fail the Bechdel test as fail to turn up for it in the first place, having got lost on the way, I’d say: pick your battles. The boys are so clearly no-hopers, and we are so clearly meant to be laughing at them, and the stupidity of their world view, I can’t actually see what the problem is. The bigger problem is that the cast are getting too old. As it is, I think Simon Bird may be about to turn 48…
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