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Non-Review Review: The Inbetweeners

In fairness to The Inbetweeners, it’s relatively smartly written, well-acted by the cast involved, and entertaining – if incredibly predictable. However, I can’t help but wonder if it feels already outdated – the concept of a bunch of young British males heading to an exotic Mediterranean island as a hedonistic paradise is the kind of thing that already felt old-fashioned when shows like Ibiza Uncovered were all the rage in the late nineties, and we’ve already seen any number of movies on the topic, with Kevin and Perry Go Largeeven adapted from another British television show. The Inbetweeners has enough charm to make it almost to the end, but it just feels much more generic than it really ought to.

Not so fab four...

Credit where credit is due. The creative crew has done an excellent job adapting a familiar television show into an open and accessible movie – it’s not an easy task, as you attempt to balance attracting new fans and keeping the long-term viewers satisfied. The movie is clear and concise enough that those unfamiliar with the Channel 4 television show don’t have to be worried about being left out, without ever seeming too forced in introducing or establishing its four plucky lead characters.

That said, it falls into the same traps that a lot of sex comedies fall into, which is a bit of a shame given the wit that the script demonstrates from time-to-time. Of the bunch, only two of them come close to being sympathetic protagonists, and the other two seem almost misogynistic in their attitudes towards women. This being a sex comedy, we know that it’ll likely end with all four paired up with the four girls introduced twenty minutes from the start, but it’s harder to convince us that this is necessarily a good thing. The film celebrates the potential fulfilment that a relationship brings, but it struggles to convince us of what four women could see in four guys like these. Pairing up hardly seems like a happy ending for two (possibly three) of the four girls involved, and there isn’t much of a case to be made for the fourth pairing either.

Sink or swim time...

Asked to justify how she could be interested in a nerdy teenager (played by a twenty-something actor), she suggests that he represents a significant improvement over the type of British lad that frequents this sort of holiday establishment. The film certainly makes that case, as the four lads are juxtaposed against the more traditional tanned and toned holiday jock, who spends the movie tricking the lads into getting naked, threatening to stick a glass in their throat, or trying to take advantage of young girls. To be entirely honest, I’m not sure that being “better” than that guy represents any sort of accomplishment, and those girls honestly need higher standards.

I know that’s a complaint you could level at any number of teenage  sex comedies, but I think it’s so obvious here because the script is actually quite well-written. The jokes are hardly innovative, but they offer slightly new variations on classical themes, with the movie seeming better for the fact that it’s willing to make some of its characters seem genuinely unlikable (rather than simply “quirky”). The dialogue is crisp and the cast handle the material well – of course, that’s hardly a surprise to fans of the show. There are any number of minor subversions as the movie toys with expectations about how particular scenes will play out, but the problem is that such wit doesn’t apply to the movie overall.

The world is their playground...

It’s disappointingly conventional. All four characters learn valuable lessons and grow as individuals. All four hook up with their counterparts in the convenient four-girl group. They disagree and drift apart. They pull themselves back together. They risk losing the girls that are attracted to them, but they pull a curveball at the last-minute. All this stuff is grand, taken straight from the romantic comedy playbook, but it just feels like a shame to round off the series in such a manner. Indeed, the scenes at the start of the movie, featuring an awkward conversation with Will and his father, or the last-day-of-school scenes are charming and hilarious, with that wonderful sense that nothing is out-of-bounds for this group. Unfortunately, the moment they set foot in a different country, things wind up going through the motions.

It’s an entertaining little film with its fair share of laughs, but I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed that it isn’t anything more.

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