When The Inbetweeners TV showed up on Australian TV, I avoided it for a long time. A lot of people told me it was hilarious, but I resisted. While no one does big, broad, over the top, silly, character humor better than the British, it’s also important to remember that no one does big, broad, over the top, silly, character humor worse than the British. For every piece of awesomeness like The Young Ones, or Blackadder, or Spaced, or Father Ted, or The IT Crowd, you get twice as many shit bombs, like My Hero, or The Thin Blue Line, or Gimme Gimme Gimme, or The Vicar if Dibley, or George and Mildred, or My family. If you haven’t heard of any of those clunkers, I apologise for alerting you to their existence.
By the time I finally caved in gave The Inbetweeners a whirl, the TV show had run its course and a spin off movie had also come and gone. I burned through all three seasons of the show and the movie in a over a week. It was big, broad, over the top, silly, character humor, and it made me laugh, a lot. But even then, the first move felt like it was losing some of the charm of the show. Which is why I wasn’t really in a rush to see The Inbetweeners 2.
The lovable quartet of losers have moved on from high school, but very little else has changed. Will (Simon Bird) is a now a uni outcast instead of high school outcast. Simon (Joe Thomas) has a new girlfriend, but instead of being under the spell of infatuation, he’s simply under the thumb. Dumb guy Neil (Blake Harrison) is as oblivious as ever, making loads of new friends with this great app he found called Grndr. And braggart / compulsive liar Jay (James Buckley) is on a gap year in Australia, apparently working as a DJ in Sydney’s hottest nightclub, spending his leisure time banging a barrage of broads in his mansion.
Will, Simon and Jay decide to visit Jay in Australia where they quickly discover his nightclub job is actually as a toilet attendant, and his mansion is actually a tent on his uncle’s front lawn. After running into a childhood friend who’s grown into a hottie (Emily Berrington as Katie), Simon convinces his friends they should go on a road trip, that coincidentally, follows Katie to Byron Bay.
I remember liking The Inbetweeners Movie, but that’s about all I remember. As the sequel rolled out, I realised it was expecting me to remember a lot of specifics from the original. Apparently all four had girlfriends by the end of that movie, and all four play a part in this narrative in some way. The only problem is, I didn’t remember any of them. To the extent that I assumed Simon’s girlfriend was the same girl he was obsessed with throughout the run of the original telly series. It’s only two years since I saw the first movie, but I guess none of it really stuck with me.
Which points to the greatest strength and weakness of this franchise, its disposability. On the one hand, I love that the four main characters have been so well established and fully realised, that I don’t need any real context for them anymore, or storyline for them to be involved in. Just give me those four dudes shooting the shit and pulling the piss, and I’m gonna be entertained. The problem arises when co-creators / writers / directors Damon Beesley and Iain Morris feel the need to build a world around them, give their stories stakes and try to make me care about the consequences. To me, that kind of stuff just gets in the way of shit shooting and piss pulling.
The other problem with The Inbetweeners 2 is its constant threat of succumbing to Urkel Disease. The TV show was originally built around Will. As the new student at school, he was the audience surrogate, introducing us to his new world and his new friends. But as the show went on, the writers realised how much gold they had struck with the character of Jay. He’s filthy, he’s insecure, he’s in denial about a lot of stuff and all of these things are used to hilarious effect. The only problem is, less is more with a character like this. The shock is part of his charm, but if you overload your story with Jay zingers, the shock starts to wear off.
The Inbetweeners 2 has some good gags and at bang on 90 minutes, it’s a pretty easy watch, but it also cements my suspicions that the characters are delivering diminishing returns. The TV show only got better as it progressed. The first movie wasn’t quite on the same level of the show, but it was a perfectly fine way to kill time with a few disposable laughs. The Inbetweeners 2 is another small step down form there. It’s OK, but it’s also a sign that they should probably retire these characters now before they really shit the bed.