The Inbetweeners 2 – Review

 

In spite of a certain amount of critical snootiness that usually accompanies juvenilely-tinted teen comedies, the first season of E4’s The Inbetweeners was a briefly unrivalled comedic gem upon its release in 2008. Playing equally well to teens, twentysomethings and even nostalgic thirtysomethings; it was the quality of Damon Beesley and Iain Morris’s writing that quickly solidified the show’s legacy as British television’s answer to American Pie, a legacy that carried it through a pair of increasingly contrived further series but return to critical form with 2011’s The Inbetweeners Movie. Amongst the various successes of the big screen spin-off was a decently constructed sense of closure to the series as a whole, an ending that paid off several of the show’s central story lines and character arcs; a sense of closure made more concrete with comments by Beesley and Morris at the time which promised the show was over, the story complete and there was no more come. As is often the case however, Beesley and Morris presumably have mortgages to pay. And since The Inbetweeners Movie broke the UK box office record for an opening weekend comedy, what better way to appease the folks at Santander than churning out another?

Several months on from their holiday in Malia; Will and Simon have settled into their lives at University, Will struggling with remaining an awkward social outcast and Simon struggling with the borderline psychotic behaviour of the girlfriend he brought home with him. Reuniting with Neil for a weekend, the trio decide to venture to Australia to visit Jay, who – he claims – has become the legendary DJ Big Penis and enjoys morning fellatio with a varying number of supermodels in his palatial mansion. As always however, Jay’s take on reality is somewhat skewed, and the resulting trip sees the reunited Inbetweeners in search of life, love and survival itself in the wilds of Australia. With poop jokes.

Putting aside the cash-in nature of creating any kind of sequel to The Inbetweeners Movie, what quickly becomes the most depressing aspect of The Inbetweeners 2 is that it is, very simple, a holiday movie sequel to a holiday movie TV spin-off. As opposed to giving us a more unique and original story by simply following the characters in their university lives (which, given their time in sixth form, could have been frankly genius), Beesley and Morris have simply taken what – presumably to them  – seemed to work about the first movie and simply duplicated it, copying and pasting Australia in place of Malia, but while taking the time to surreptitiously excise any of the developed character or story arcs that made the first movie work so well. Spending the first two acts racing from one gross-out set piece to another, the film works best when it pauses to take a breath from poop jokes and rape alarms to simply allow the four central characters to interact. The back-and-forth between the titular band remains, as ever, the most enjoyable aspect; yet this is continuously set aside for the sake of awkwardly shoehorned moments that earn a faint chuckle, but feel inert having been repeated from earlier gags in the series (the entire Thorpe Park episode, for example, is regurgitated in under ten minutes).

On a performance level, Blake Harrison again owns the show as the increasingly dim but loveable Neil; while Joe Thomas returns to the “everyman” role of Simon with ease, overcoming a ridiculously farfetched subplot with relative charm and an earnest likeability. James Buckley meanwhile continues to polarise as the unapologetic Jay; while Simon Bird becomes one of the movie’s biggest disappointments, with his previously rounded, articulate and know-it-all portrayal of Will feeling somewhat cartoonish and exaggerated this time out. 

With Beesley and Morris also stepping up as directors for the sequel, efforts are noticeably made to increase the cinematic quality of proceedings; particularly during an exaggerated opening visual gag (which fails to elicit much of a laugh, to be frank) and a third-act desert based survival sequence. The divergence of the former writers into both writing and directing feels throughout like the root cause of all the problems present in this overloaded TV Christmas special that has been granted a theatrical release based entirely on the success of its predecessor. It adds nothing to “the story” of The Inbetweeners (removing “permanent” characters from the mythos with literally no explanation save for one of them opening Guardians Of The Galaxy in the screen next door), succeeds only in lowering the status quo to a level of implausibility (complete with a recycling of a Neil gag from the first movie) and worst of all, fails to be half as funnier as even the lowest points of the TV show. It feels like the worst kind of cash-in sequel, has less cinematic quality than any given Royle Family reunion special and vastly overestimates it’s own comedic worth.

It’s enough to earn Beesley and Morris the title of “sequel wankers”, but based on The Inbetweeners 2 it’d be hard not to imagine they’d use that exact term as the tag line for The Inbetweeners 3 the next time Santander come calling for the mortgage payment.

 

Catch Van Connor’s reviews in our Movies section and live on Slam Dunk Cinema every Saturday at 12PM on Sheffield Live! 93.2FM or on the podcast via iTunes.

 

In it
Simon Bird, Joe Thomas, Blake Harrison

Behind it
Damon Beesley & Iain Morris




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