There’s been a huge amount of hype about The Inbetweeners 2 and the movie has duly set new box office records for a British comedy. Fans of the show and of the rather wonderful first film will have a good time but I can’t help but be slightly disappointed. If the first film felt like an extended episode from the TV series, this felt a little more like a 1970s sit-com movie – though we shouldn’t forget that the first On the Buses film was the best performing film of 1971.
The Australian location allows the team to push the series’ themes and tropes further and to greater excess; indeed, we see Jay live out a fantasy scene rather than narrate it, and the Peter Andre vehicle would, I hope, not last in the UK. The gags keep coming relentlessly and if you don’t like a particular joke there’ll be another along in a few minutes. This is both a strength and a weakness because at times it seems as though the film’s overall narrative is lost in favour of some spectacular set pieces, or in order to set up running gags for later in the movie. There are funny-but-distracting and ultimately self-indulgent pastiches, too: of Harry Potter films, and Jaws for starters and at times we almost lose sight of the incredible heart that has always been present in the series. In fact, it’s rather reminiscent of Cars 2, which rips its hero Mater from his rustbelt home and sets up amusing sketches as he fails to come to grips with life in other countries. Of course, the whole premise of the Inbetweeners is that the characters failed to come to grips with real life in their home in the first place – but the sketch/big scene feel of the film is at times overwhelming.
There is much to enjoy and to admire: Will’s acoustic moment is as funny as the lads’ dancing in the first film, and the water park sequences are reminiscent of the Thorpe Park episode of the TV series. The group puncture the pomposity of gap yah culture (though that isn’t exactly a difficult target). And there’s room for an appearance by the always-welcome Phil Gilbert.
But there are further niggles, too. Simon has been dating Lucy (from the first film) for the last year – but her personality is completely incompatible with that shown in the previous film. The outback scene – they were missing for two hours but the rescue team travelled a couple of hundred miles to find them and they were on international news – doesn’t make sense. The four week holiday seems to extend considerably by the time the lads have returned home. And while the first film rather cleverly tied up things that needed tying to provide the perfect holiday (there is some justice against the main antagonist), the second actually sees Jay and Simon sent home in a kind of limbo while Will, as he puts it, wins the battle but loses the war against his love rival Ben. For that reason I disagree with those people who have argued on Twitter that the film brings things to an end. The first film could have done so – it was so perfect – but I want The Inbetweeners 3 if only to allow the team to return one more time to its roots.
If you love the series, go and see it. But then come home and put a TV episode or the first film on, and enjoy even more.
The Inbetweeners 2 is at cinemas throughout the UK.