The Inbetweeners Movie, 2011.
Directed by Ben Palmer.
Starring Simon Bird, Joe Thomas, James Buckley, Blake Harrison and Emily Head.
Will, Simon, Jay and Neil celebrate the end of school (and Simon’s breaking up with Carly) with a ‘lads’ holiday to Malia.
Cock. There’s a lot of cock in this film. And that’s not referring to the four male leads. It’s referring to actual shots of penises. Not a single full boob in this film, but a lot of cock. There might be a homosexual subtext to it all, but such an abundance of cock truly reflects what happens on a “lads” holiday. It’s a group of boys living in a hotel flat. It’s the intimacy of the situation. Toilet doors will be left open. Unabashed flatulence becomes the norm. Anyone who’s been on one will share similar experiences. You always see a lot more penis than lady parts. That, or I’m doing it wrong.
A small detail, but the boob:penis ratio shows how acutely The Inbetweeners is observed. Its television predecessor debuted only a year after Skins on Channel 4. The latter was very sexy. Watching it, you’d think you missed out on a lot during those years. Was ours the only friendship group at school that didn’t party wildly on drugs and sleep with teachers? Hell, we could hardly get served in pubs (even with meals), and our house parties were most definitely sausage-fests.
But then came Will (Simon Bird), Simon (Joe Thomas), Jay (James Buckley) and Neil (Blake Harrison). They were us; awkward, underage, with no girls. They weren’t artistic, tortured teens, urban youths or new-rave hipsters. Nor were they the cool kids; the ‘jocks’ as they say in America. They were those caught in the middle.
Here they make the tricky transition from television to film. The first few minutes feel far too glossy, like the more detailed animation on the The Simpsons Movie compared to the cartoon. The opening shot sweeps across suburbia, gliding past half-CGI houses and through a window to rest on Will (Simon Bird). Now that’s production value. But you get used to it.
These sorts of films can often feel like three 25-minute shows strung loosely together. That’s lazy writing. The Inbetweeners avoids this by having a clear story arc established early on: they must go to the big boat party.
The boat party is made important for each character. They’ve met a group of four girls (that’s one apiece, despite there being a ‘fat’ one) who will be attending it. In some ways, the girls are the female versions of their protagonist counterparts. It’s a tried and tested plot device, almost specific to television series. Where else can you become so attached to characters, week after week, that something as simple as gender opposites is hilarious? Red Dwarf, for example; Recess and Ed, Edd and Eddy for those who still flick through the ‘Children’s Entertainment’ section of the Sky EPG.
The rest of the film seamlessly follows the narrative of a “lads” holiday, complete with the Inbetweeners’ unique awkwardness. They go out drinking till they vomit at night, and reside by the swimming pool nursing hangovers during the day. The first poolside trip is a tour de force for Will and Jay. They’ve thrown a family’s towels into the pool to commandeer a few sunbeds. A sign nearby states that you cannot reserve sunbeds, so when the irate father returns, shouting his head off, Will is merely defending the rules. There’s a reason the family had reserved sunbeds so close to the pool, though. Their daughter is in a wheelchair. Will, defiantly stubborn on realising this, protests that the rest of the family seem perfectly able-bodied. Meanwhile, a local kid is tormenting Jay. He’s kicked him, called him names and pulled down his shorts (providing one of the ‘cock’ shots). In retaliation, Jay throws him into the pool. The kid can’t swim. And all the while, their female friends watch on, slightly horrified at the gang’s social ineptitude.
There’s also Carly. The entire trip was originally planned to help take Simon’s mind off their recent break-up. However, when booking the holiday, and short of ideas, Neil and Jay asked Carly where she was going. Malia? That sounds like a good idea. But Simon is still besotted with her, and believes the boat party will reignite her love for him. It’s a pathetically romantic thought, but, again, it’s an acute one. Who hasn’t put all their hope into an orchestrated meeting like that?
The release of the final Harry Potter film this summer has brought about the end of many a childhood. The climax of The Inbetweeners feels similarly weighty. They’re all off to University and will most likely grow apart. They’re far too different, anyway. It’s only because of the intense experience of school (that you are forced to spend entire days together), that they even chat to one another. The ending is corny, but, for once, that’s all right. They’ve shat themselves in exams, punched fish to death on a boat and had a part of their testicles protrude from the side of a pair of Speedos at a fashion show. They deserve a happy ending and a heartfelt goodbye. They gave us hope when all we knew were Skins.
365 Days, 100 Films
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