15 – 96mins – 2014
When I walked out of the cinema last August, parroting choice lines and giggling like an over-excited bumder, I was certain that the second big screen outing for bezzie mates Will (Simon Bird), Simon (Joe Thomas), Neil (Blake Harrison) and Jay (James Buckley) was a briefcase-sized success: funny, crude, cathartic and heartfelt in perfect quantities.
Yes, I just said “titties”.
But with a bit of distance between me and Channel 4’s lovable geeks, I returned to the Oz-trotting sequel last week, and… was somewhat underwhelmed. It’s not a baaaad film, and I did chuckle along once again at the most infectious zingers, but what struck me most second time around was how thoroughly uninspired it felt, emanating a strong whiff of concept-repeating, franchise-lengthening, straw-clutching.
The sitcom rule of thumb is “don’t mess with the status quo”, but for a big-screen spin-off there needs to be some invention and expansion from the half hour format. This is why so many head abroad. So what do we get in The Inbetweeners 2? Another foreign holiday! Yes, there’s a Harry Potter-spoofing title sequence and Jay’s hyperbolic email from the other side of the world is acted out with outrageous verve, but once the UK is left behind you realise all the fish-out-of-water schtick was already covered (and liberally smothered in smut) in 2011’s first …Movie (reviewed HERE on my old blog).
The social misfits returned from their first holiday sans-parents happy, content, confident – and with actual real-live girlfriends. That was their silver screen send-off. But money talks, and one year down the line (for our characters) all the good work has been undone and they have reverted back to form; no-one has grown up and everyone is worryingly miserable.
The horrors of work, further education and psycho-girlfriends! Worst of all, put-upon Will is still being picked on. Only now by supposedly more mature and worldly students at Uni – a place where all types of people are meant to converge and feel welcome amongst peers – in a far crueller and less forgivable way than he ever was at Rudge Park Comprehensive. I genuinely felt for him.
The only character afforded any growth is Simon’s girlfriend, Lucy (Tamla Kari), and not for the better. Genuine and reserved in …Movie, she has morphed into an out-and-out hoodie-cutting nutjob, simply to give Simon a reason to feel the same despair felt by bullied Will and directionless Jay. Lucy has been given such a radical – hideous – personality transplant she may as well be a different character.
I may be over-stating my niggles. It’s not all cruelty, awkwardness and doom-and-gloom – this is a comedy, after all! The dialogue is still quick, witty and genuine. Furthermore, Neil’s dolphin training debacle and waterpark “accident” is a vomit-inducing standout. Will also gets a moment to, erm, shine when he “dazzles” potential love interest Katie (Emily Berrington) with a wince-inducing campfire recital. Sadly, it feels like a laboured attempt to replicate the guffaws of the first film’s robot dance sequence – and falls short in comparison.
Nothing is terrible here, but it has been done better before. I’m back on my niggles again, then, and repetition is The Inbetweeners 2’s biggest downfall. As touching as the camaraderie and epiphanies during the dehydrated Outback climax is, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a forced attempt at a second happily ever after – and one that had already been executed more authentically in the first film. I like these characters a great deal and don’t want to see them treading water – even if it is in somewhere as exotic as Byron Bay!!