Those who have no experience with the UK series “The Inbetweeners” will be glad to know that, like this critic, if you have no prior familiarity with the characters from the series (or the MTV spinoff) , then its film spin-off “The Inbetweeners Movie” (or plain old “The Inbetweeners” on its U.S. release, which starts this Friday) will still make perfect sense. Though one does wonder how you get a series that seems to be about the UK’s declining school system, and the sociopath malcontents that somehow are permitted to graduate, on the air. Surely “The Inbetweeners” is a show about the bureaucratic struggles of an overtaxed school board dealing with the foulest, most obnoxious, sex-obsessed deviant jerk teenagers of England’s suburban middle class, which makes the movie, a lighter affair, seem like a brief respite. This must be the case.
With our four leads graduating, “The Inbetweeners Movie” is essentially “Assignment Miami Beach” to the source material’s “Police Academy,” as they celebrate by going on holiday to Spain. The idea is to “pull a few birds,” one of the more printable euphemisms the boys use in their attempted sexual conquest. Joe Thomas is Simon, the lovelorn one, unable to get over just being dumped by a girl who is very obviously a one-dimensional tramp. Simon Bird‘s Will is the dork virgin, an itchy sort, comfortable around approximately no one and quick with a put-down so as to not be mistaken for one of those “endearing“ nerds. James Buckley‘s Jay is the live-action Quagmire, a scrotum-chinned moptop scamp who will likely stoop to murder in order to toss his cookies. Rounding out the quartet is Blake Harrison‘s Neil, the most guileless of the group, simply because he’s by far the dimmest. Unsurprisingly, his sexual motivations are rewarded the quickest as he leaps in bed with a number of older floozies. Because being old and wanting sex is nasty!
The film skips along like a low-rent “American Pie” DVD knockoff, the boys getting in trouble by picking the wrong clubs, fighting the wrong people, and chasing the wrong women. Each setup has an entirely predictable payoff, enhanced with the characters’ continued inebriation spelling out an excuse as to why they’re blindly following their debauched dim instincts. Their nights are followed by a return to their predictably third-world apartment complex, a dilapidated multi-level Port-A-John that soon becomes home to all sorts of scatological morning-after hijinks. Along the way, the boys quarrel, make up, and quarrel again, mostly because their almost entirely selfish interests somehow don’t intersect.
The film (which is somehow behind only “The Full Monty” as the 2nd biggest grossing comedy of all time in Britain, and the 28th most successful film, period) shows it’s cards very early, by matching the boys up with a corresponding foursome of vacationing girls, which makes the movie’s somersaults in stretching the material to feature-length even more egregious, considering we know they’ve found their proper mates. It’s a perfect male sex comedy set-up, in that each girl has a distinct, attractive, endearing trait that makes them alluring to their male counterparts. Though the women, endlessly frustrated by these dim boys and their selfish pursuits, have no real motivation to eventually fall in their arms.
Most glaring is the girl introduced as “the fat one” — as played by plus-sized model Lydia Rose Bewley, the film gives her a tough self-awareness and a cheeky sense of humor that subverts the usually troubling body politics of these types of films. And then it reasserts them right back up again, matching her up with the film’s least attractive character in Buckley’s intensely toxic horndog characterization. Of course, this is after he’s repeatedly rejected her obvious advances, because a teen boy moppet with a face the shape of a dinner plate, an overactive virgin libido and a contempt for nearly everyone around him can afford to be choosy.
It’s clear, and it redeems a few slim sections of the film, that these four boys have solid chemistry with each other. The film trades on that common movie conceit that very close friends are still going to keep revealing secrets and motivations to each other that will seem fully surprising, though it’s mostly believable considering these are four somewhat skilled comic performers, even if, with the accents changed, their parade across Spain would be indicative of the Ugly American prototype. In other words, here’s the same slop you’ve seen before, only with brand new accents. Also, more pooping. [D+]