It isn’t essential that viewers of the movie version of the British sitcom The Inbetweeners have a passing familiarity with the series, but it’s recommended, primarily because fans may be the most forgiving of the film’s flaws. Over the course of three seasons and 18 episodes, The Inbetweeners features the punchy, raunchy misadventures of four teenage mates: nebbishy, sarcastic Will (Simon Bird, who’s also the narrator); his shy, clumsy best friend Simon (Joe Thomas); the impulsive, boastful Jay (James Buckley); and sweet, dim Neil (Blake Harrison). Each episode sees the foursome ragging mercilessly on each other and getting into some kind of drunken mess while trying to get laid; the movie follows the same plot, with the guys flying off to Malia in Crete to have a debauched summer holiday before starting their new lives either as university drones or working stiffs. But what’s tightly wound at half an hour comes a bit unsprung over 90 minutes, as writers Damon Beesley and Iain Morris struggle to find new ways for the boys to humiliate each other in front of their prospective sex partners. All of which means that anyone who doesn’t already know and care a little about these characters might find the movie a bit thin.
For those who do already like The Inbetweeners, though, there’s a lot here to enjoy. Even at the end of their run, they’re a crack comic ensemble, with the quartet playing off each other’s types in ways that are predictable but still funny: Jay does something douchey, Neil consumes a food or beverage that makes him emit some horrible fluid or smell, Simon lets nerves interfere with his stabs at romance, and Will hangs back primly and makes comments like, “And so we head out on the town, smelling like an industrial accident at a Lynx factory, and looking like the world’s shittiest boy band.” Even in this flabbier shape, The Inbetweeners is still good for a steady stream of funny lines, such as Will joking that a Greek waiter could be off “committing atrocities in Anatolia,” and it’s good for some hilariously inappropriate images, such as Will being coerced into wearing a pink “Pussay Patrol” T-shirt featuring a cat sporting a giant erection on the front and the words “Mr. I Fuck Kids” on the back.
But what primarily redeems the Inbetweeners movie is that it’s so surprisingly tender and sweet. Throughout the film, the guys cross path with four young ladies, and gradually, with each serendipitous meeting, Will and company retreat a little more from their over-the-top mythologizing of the opposite sex, and start to relate to women as people, not symbols. As enjoyable as these lads have been to watch over the past few years on The Inbetweeners, it’s the girls who steal the movie, leading longtime fans to wonder what a similar 18-episode series about these characters would’ve been like. Some clever TV producer in the UK should get right on that.