As suggested by the title, there will be no holds barred regarding spoilers in this review, so beware!
To me, there’s nothing that can cheer me up like an episode or two of The Inbetweeners. Every character – superbly written by Damon Beesly and Iain Morris – knows their niche, knows the ins and outs of their character’s psyche , their thoughts, reactions and emotions, and I think that was best portrayed in The Inbetweeners 2 than in the 3-season TV show, or the first feature film that came out in 2011.
Before we get into the meat of the review, I think it would be a good idea to summarise the series so far. The Inbetweeners began as a small E4 TV show in the UK, spanning 3 series of 6 episodes in each. The show followed main character and narrator Will McKenzie, played by Simon Bird, as he took the leap from a top private school to a local comprehensive. Here, he meets Simon Cooper, played by Joe Thomas, and his other friends Jay Cartwright (James Buckley) and Neil Sutherland (Blake Harrion). Just to give you an idea as to how ludicrous this show could be at times, in the first 6 episodes alone, Will calls Neil’s dad a “bumder”, Simon gets his car door ripped off by a lamppost (and has to carry it around at a theme park with him) and Will’s Christmas Party results in all the Inbetweeners getting horribly rejected. Cheerful.
The show’s final episode showed in October 2010, and there were some genuinely touching moments. Along the way, The Inbetweeners had picked up 5 BAFTA TV Award nominations, the Audience Award from the same ceremony, won ‘Digital Choice’ at the National Television Awards, but most crucially, gained a massive fan base, which really is the reason I’m here now talking about their second cinematic entry. The Inbetweeners Movie came out in summer 2011, and was surprisingly the comedy smash hit of the year, making over $88 million, and becoming the biggest box office opening of any UK comedy. Personally, I thought the film was great, but I’ll get into that another time when I review it later.
After making so much money, and smashing box office records, it’s no surprise that in August 2012, a sequel to The Inbetweeners Movie was announced. In August 2013, the sequel was confirmed to be released in August 2014, and the first teaser trailer was released in May 2014. The film made $55 million in the UK alone, but sorry fans, it has been confirmed that this is the final entry in the series. Without any further ado, let’s get into the review:
The Inbetweeners 2 catches up with famous foursome, the boys who aren’t-quite-cool-but-aren’t-quite-nerds, the Inbetweeners. In a surprising move, the film opens in a rather high-budget shot where Will, Simon and Neil get rejected from entering a party, as usual. Dressed up as Harry Potter characters, and Neil with a distinct lack of underwear, they head off to a bar, and receive an email from everyone’s favourite liar, Jay. He says that he’s living it up in Australia, working as a DJ in a top night club, and supposedly wooing a different woman every night (and morning). Realising just how tragic their life in England is, they decide to take a visit to Australia, to see if Jay really is “DJ Big Penis”, and as fans of the series may expect, he was totally lying and actually works in the nightclub’s toilets. Will reunites with a very forward friend of his, and the group, reunited again, head off on a backpacking trip. Over the course of their stay, and travelling in the trusty “Mobile Virgin Conversion Unit”, Neil accidentally kills a dolphin, Will is chased down a water slide by Neil’s faeces – resulting in one of the film’s funniest moments – Simon somehow proposes to his psycho girlfriend, and Jay, honestly, does very little until we reach the film’s third act. After a massive argument, and a brilliant scene in which Will and Simon shout “Grow up!” to each other in increasingly preposterous ways, the boys head off in their Peter Andre-inspired car to find Jane, Jay’s girlfriend from The Inbetweeners Movie. Unfortunately, they don’t find Jane, but they do wind up stranded in the middle of a desert, a plot device that manages to inspire some of the most infantile gags in the franchise’s history, particularly when Neil urinates in Simon’s mouth. However, our heroes soon begin to weaken, and they supposedly die in the desert…
…that is until so miraculously, Jane manages to locate the boys and bring them back to the mainland. In this semi-closing scene, we find out that Will’s mum has been seeing Mr Gilbert, the head of Sixth Form who absolutely hates Will. Simon also finds out his girlfriend has been cheating on him, and the gang celebrate in the only way they can, by going off to an exotic country, this time Vietnam, and pulling some ‘girls’. Don’t understand that bit? I’ll let the credits do the talking this time.
Some of the highlights of The Inbetweeners 2 was obviously the boys themselves. At the start of the film, each character has moved on with their lives,which provides an interesting base for a show which previously only really took place on their estate. It was refreshing to see Will and Simon at University, but seeing Neil’s penis wasn’t quite as refreshing. Somewhat mortifying. The characters really developed over the 91-minute film, particularly Jay. In the TV show,he was the sex addict, always talking about girls, and really he’s no different here, but especially in the second half, when he reveals that he’s actually only in Oz to see Jane, we see a more caring side of Jay that I really didn’t expect. However, just as Beesley and Morris took one step forward, they certainly took two steps backwards with Simon. In the show, and the first film, he yearned for the affection of his childhood sweetheart Carli, and some of the most entertaining moments from the show were when his attempts to woo her completely backfired, but in this film, Simon is stuck in a relationship he definitely doesn’t want to be in, which dragged his character down a bit. There was no standout scene for Simon, there was nothing in this film that shaped him as a character, and the Simon we saw at the start was exactly the same Simon we saw at the end, and this did disappoint me a bit. Even Neil, who we don’t know all that much about compared to Will and Simon, had some excellent moments, particularly the dolphin scene, but I felt like the only reason Simon was in the film was because of the previous film and the TV show. If this film was separate from the continuity of its predecessors, I don’t think the film would be any better or worse without Simon, and that really is a shame.
Another issue I had was the jokes. I know that half the jokes in the TV show are the ongoing jokes, such as Neil’s dad being gay and Will’s mum being fit, but in a feature almost as long as a whole series of the show, I really think some innovation was needed. There were too many jokes that either got old fast, such as the whole ‘bants’ thing going on between Jay and Neil, and after the first few appearances I was done with this. When considering teenage culture in Britain today, there is really nothing innovative about referring to ‘banter’. Look down any 14-year-old boy’s Twitter page and it will be full of references to ‘banter’, and I thought a property as funny and innovative as The Inbetweeners could do much better than what it did here. The jokes were much more infantile, mainly referring to poo, and it was incredibly jarring to watch, considering viewers are used to more adult-orientated jokes. I don’t mean to say that the whole scene with Will on the slide being chased by Neil poo wasn’t funny – it was one of the best segments in the film – but I think something like The Inbetweeners has here changed its humour in some ways, which also changes the overall enjoyment of the film for a fan of the show.
I don’t think The Inbetweeners 2 was bad, not by any stretch of the imagination. I loved seeing the characters again, watching the actors – now so comfortable in the roles they have been playing for six years – own their roles, and some of the new additions fit straight in. I loved the tension the film builds up at points, and when the boys were stuck in the desert, I genuinely thought that was it for them. I thought they would die there, and the film would end. In a way, I would’ve liked the finality that the last episode of the show and the film lacked, but I did like seeing them return to their families, and getting up to more mischief in the future. The story, not always a strong point in the first film, was interesting, and at points I had no idea where the characters were going to go next, and I loved that. I loved the humour (mostly), I loved the characters, I loved the setting, I loved a lot of things about it. However, I can’t ignore that there were some points where jokes didn’t fit in to what The Inbetweeners is about, but that didn’t mean they weren’t funny, it meant they were disjointed. Some characters developed sensibly and cleverly, whereas some where left to eat other’s dust, which disappointed me massively. In a way, I’m glad this is the end of the franchise, because if it were to continue, I feel it would continue down a more childish route, focussing on gross-out poo jokes, and that’s not what The Inbetweeners is about. The whole purpose of the TV series was to document, in a hilarious way, four ‘normal’ teenagers grow up into adults, and by the end of this film, they have. The characters have reached logical conclusions, and I think this film provides just enough finality to render any further installations pointless, but still enough to whet the appetite of fans who want to see where the characters went. I loved The Inbetweeners 2, in fact I thought it was great at points, but the humour felt disjointed at points, and even though I’m going to miss them, I’m glad The Inbetweeners series has reached the great conclusion it deserves.
I give The Inbetweeners 2: 7 out of 10.
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