A very long time ago in somewhere that feels like a galaxy far, far away (university), a friend of mine described The Inbetweeners as “the kids who weren’t cool enough to be in Skins.”
In 2008 we empathised, but as I’ve got older I’ve learnt that unless you walk into a room full of those Rugby-playing types, you could pick any young man between 16-35 and he’d be able to identify with at least one of the characters from the series. The other side of that is that your friends just know and will always be able to tell you which character(s) you’re most like. Such is the ubiquity of the show’s representation that I think they’re composites of an entire generation, rather than the other way around.
To satisfy the question on your mind, dear reader, I was —- with a hint of —- and was most definitely like —- when it came to women. There’s a comment box below – go wild with your guesses!
The show launched in 2008, two years after I left school, and I’ve casually watched it over the years so much that it’s become even more of a self-indulgent trek down nostalgia lane. The puerile humour is so pinpoint accurate about my generation that I’d dare anyone to say they went to a school that didn’t have people like Jay, Simon, Will or Neil – or, indeed, weren’t in a similar group themselves.
That said, this second big screen outing for the quartet is something of a letdown. Alastair’s Theory-That-All-Good-Things-Must-Come-To-An-End says quite clearly that, like artificial intelligence, when something becomes self-aware it’s buggered. The Inbetweeners, rightly award-winning and much beloved, was naturally bespoke to a young crowd because it was mirroring them. What the first movie got away with, but only barely, was the same crime that latter-day Top Gear endured near the end: giving the audience less of the natural banter and more of a constructed ‘this is what they want, let’s apply it en masse’ ratings pursuit.
As such the 2014 film is a flimsy hark back to days long past. Teenage humour has descended into outright toilet humour and the fish out of water context with hot girls and jocks hating the awkward foursome feels feigned next to the bang on horror of school.
The plot, the gang going to see Jay who’s working Australia, is a reasonable one but was always doomed to fail. In the first ten minutes, the film bypassed what should have been its best bet for a resurgence: focussing on the trials and tribulations of the awkward foursome at university or in work.
Instead, to justify the big budget picture they go off to Australia and seem to have a totally unrealistic and never-ending series of encounters with people who are totally narcissistic bastards. It gets no to few laughs; it’s been done before, not least in the 2011 movie. The struggle to fit in has been replaced with the audience screaming “have you not learnt to shut the f*ck up, and just relax?” It represents a complete loss of sympathy from the fact that everyone in school really is out to get you, to laugh at you, and to deride you at the earliest opportunity.
All in all, it’s a shame and the bigger of the two evils of having a film series spawn from a classic television show. The first film should have been it: the grand finale with a modestly happy ending and the hope at the end of the tunnel after the misery of school. This film ultimately tells us that while the friendships endure, each character is doomed to adolescence because they refuse to change. It has, in short, outgrown itself.
Give it a miss, stick to the original, and think of this horrendous film with the same fondness as the dream where you walked into a classroom without your uniform on.