It says much about the widespread and intense popularity of The Inbetweeners that in under four years it has gone from a TV slot on E4 to breaking UK box office records for UK comedy – taking £13m in its opening weekend. Late night teen comedies are nothing new, unfortunately neither are underwhelming shifts from the small to big screen; The Simspons movie a recent example. Add to this the news that the film would involve the four-piece going “on tour”, akin to Kevin and Perry Go Large, and it seemed the great series was setting itself up for a spectacular fall, especially considering the comparatively tired third series. Thankfully, these preconceptions prove misfounded, so long as you take the film to be the culmination of previous episodes.
Nonetheless, many broadsheet reviews have superficially drawn comparisons with The Hangover when in fact what keeps the film from faltering is the underlying subtlety that counteracts the in your face, gross out humour. Yes, there are graphic puking and nudity scenes but these never become the cornerstones of the film, instead the focus is character driven, enhancing the refreshingly “honest” dialogue. The context and setting of the film only add to this, the warped reality of a post exam holiday providing the writers both ample scope for new situational comedy and the opportunity to expose the delicate fragility of adolescence to an extent the TV shows could only hint at. This is not to say that sex, booze and “clunge” does not remain in heavy supply but rather, much like the vomiting and nudity scenes, they are kept secondary to the main thread of the film – coming of age while facing the disarming force of reality in life outside the school gates. The most telling examples of this involve Jay, whose shallow outward persona is brutally shattered to reveal a boy desperate to fit in, acting a role rather than being true to himself. A fact his love interest highlights especially well. Complaints about the language and attitudes toward women do not hold because, far from being glorified, they are ultimately undermined. This is helped by the central role afforded to Will, who as in the series, offers snippets of maturity in a David Mitchell manner.
Indeed, all of the boys find themselves experiencing a voyage of discovery and realisation. For every comic moment of naivety toward holiday reps, there are deeper issues dealt with: Simon awakening to the manipulation of the girl he thought cared about him, the group coming to terms with the destabilisation University brings. Reference to these moments can be recognised by all but particularly the core target audience. As a result, The Inbetweeners rises above other teen comedies by trusting its audience to understand the importance of the implicit as much as the explicit.
Rating: 4 out of 5