I try and avoid having expectations towards the films I watch, if only so I can judge the film on its own merits and not measure it up to whatever I imagined in my mind before viewing. Yet is there anything that provokes lower expectations than the idea of a sequel that has been commissioned solely for monetary as opposed to artistic purposes? The first Inbetweeners movie was designed as a swansong to the beloved TV series, yet a £42 million haul at the UK box office ensured that another was just around the corner, and here it is.
Factor into the low expectation pool the fact that all four actors are now in their late twenties and are still (fairly unrealistically) portraying teenagers here, which confuses the timeline of the show. The first TV series depicted the first year of sixth form, and aired in 2008. This depicts the first year of university, yet arrives six years later instead of two. My final worry was that for comedy to work the material needs to remain fresh, and this is a franchise that seems to now be focused solely on the hilarity of bodily functions, which can only be funny for so long. What I’m trying to tell you, dear reader, is that I found The Inbetweeners 2 to be perfectly funny despite all of its faults- however, this should also be the time to finally end the franchise once and for all. The jokes haven’t worn thin yet, but any more movies and they definitely will have done.
If there was a nagging fault with the first movie, it was that it had a happy ending, where the gang all unrealistically got with girls who wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole were this to happen in real life (who are either absent or transformed into psychopaths for the sequel). In fact, the final boat party sequence played more like an advert for the Malia tourist board than the culmination of the ritual humiliation the characters had faced prior to the climax. If the sequel succeeds where the other fails it’s that the characters remain in a constant state of humiliation for the running time. Every time something goes their way, the rug is pulled from underneath them, and life shits on them (sometimes literally). Based on people who I’ve spoken to about the movie already, they’ve said it’s clearly worse than the first, and I assume it is because it doesn’t have the “feel good movie of the summer” vibe that the first one ended with. As a natural born misanthrope who loves watching people with lives worse than mine, I enjoyed it slightly more than the first.
All you need to do is look at where the characters are; Will (Simon Bird) is at university at Bristol, where everybody hates him. Simon (Joe Thomas) is living with his mentally unstable girlfriend in Sheffield, and Jay (James Buckley) is now in Australia working as one of those “no Armani, no punani” guys who exist in gents toilets in nightclubs seemingly in every corner of the world. Neil (Blake Harrison) doesn’t have a shred of self-awareness to address the meaningless state of his existence, so is naturally happier than the others. Jay invites the gang to come to Australia, and they do, setting off yet another holiday of poor decisions.
Creators and screenwriters Damon Beesley and Iain Morris take over as directors for the first time in the series’ history, and add a level of ambition in the transition from the small screen to the big screen that was absent in the previous outing. If you ignore the shit special effects of the opening sequence, there is an admirable sense of visual ambition. For example, Jay’s email to Neil inviting the gang to Australia is filmed in a similar way to Jordan Belfort’s opening monologue in The Wolf of Wall Street, with a seemingly one-take shot taking us through Jay’s imagined lifestyle of living in a mansion, working as a superstar DJ and having sex with various women using the technique known as the “one pump orgasm”. The most surprising thing about this sequence is that it actually compares favourably to Scorsese’s directorial style, which isn’t a sentence I was expecting to write here.
I was worried about not finding the film funny due to the over familiarity of the gross out comedy genre. I mean, the TV show dealt with bodily functions from vomiting to shitting yourself, so there’s seemingly no new territory to be explored- and there’s nothing less funny than a TV show revisiting former glories. The theory of Chekhov’s Gun is that if a gun is introduced in the first act of a narrative, it will be used in the third. The Gross out equivalent is if a character announces they have irritable bowel syndrome, it’s only a matter of time before we see the messy consequences. Yet despite being heavily signposted, the ensuing shitting scene is a thing of pure wonder- it is truly a sign a comedy is working if a joke it has used before and has heavily hinted at repeating can still be done again entirely differently, and still be done so hilariously.
Lowbrow comedy is the hardest form to pull off, and the reason it works here where is because the characters are pathetic. If we were supposed to root for them, it would just seem gross-out for the sake of it; instead, we are supposed to be complicit in their everyday humiliation, which makes every traumatic incident almost cathartic in its hilariousness. It’s not a significant improvement on the first movie, it is riddled with numerous structural faults, but it does get closer to what I assumed the essence of the TV show was- the misery of teenage life. There may not be a happy ending for them, but for the audience there definitely will be. Let’s end this franchise now whilst it’s still funny, and before inferior sequels threaten to tarnish it.