Not a Boy, Not Yet a Man: Palmer’s Film Version of Popular Series a Threadbare Sketch
While it may have sounded like a good idea to make a film spin off of his immensely popular UK series with The Inbetweeners, Ben Palmer’s end result doesn’t reveal itself to be much of a motion picture. A series of interrelated sketches featuring the same four characters embodied by the same four actors from the series as they continue on with their clichéd heterosexual issues pertaining to getting laid and inebriated may have not the best route for a film treatment, and there’s something unavoidably regressive and derivative in their every moment on screen here. So much so that their endeavors feel like a bloated two part episode of the series rather than a standalone film (but then, maybe that explains, the insistence of clearly denoting that this is The Movie).
For those unfamiliar, four somewhat nerdy, somewhat uncouth, somewhat dopey and uncool teenage boys form a group of ‘inbetweeners,” not D list but surely not cool or functional enough to belong to the in crowd. When Jay’s (James Buckley) grandfather dies and leaves him an inheritance, the four concoct an excuse for taking a vacation together on a Greek party island where they will be able to fornicate unabashedly and drink till they’re blitzed. At the same time, Simon (Joe Thomas) has just been dumped by longtime girlfriend Carly (Emily Head) and group dummy Neil (Blake Sutherland) stupidly booked the same vacation spot as her friends, which only makes Simon think this vacation was meant to mend their broken relationship. Meanwhile, our omniscient narrator is James (Simon Bird), the brightest and nerdiest of the bunch. In a broad stroke of luck, they run into a foursome of British lasses they met on the journey over, and each boy gets awkwardly paired up with one of them as a sexual/date interest, unbeknownst to all of them (but not to us) initially. A few laughs from extremely awkward scenarios, and presto, this series of clichés ends up exactly where you predict it will.
The main problem with The Inbetweeners Movie is that it’s trying too hard to be raunchy, heartfelt, and funny all at the same time, with gags and jokes careening bluntly at breakneck speed. This is an unabashed nerd fantasy for all those people categorized in between the losers and the pretty people, or so the film would have us believe. Additionally, the four nearly wholly unlikeable main characters seem to have no reason to be together other than that no one else really wants to hang out with them. And as we hit each check mark on the clichéd narrative express and find that even the crudest of these little bastards actually has a heart of gold (forget all that misogyny and give him three cheers when he decides the previously derided chubby girl is alright for him), you’ll realize that no amount of ass shots or accents can save the writing from being run of the mill crud. Caught between The Hangover (2009) and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005), more adolescent than the former and only barely more masculine than the latter, this is one overly long television treatment not fit for feature length running time. Perfect for watching in between doing more important things on your end.