As a hymn to bromance, and an exploration of the comic possibilities of what happens when an idiot falls down a water slide, The Inbetweeners 2 is a truly crafted piece of work.
The Inbetweeners started life as a cheerfully bad taste British TV series about four teenagers on the fringe of social acceptance, then morphed into a hit feature film about the same kids on schoolies in Crete.
The Inbetweeners 2, its sequel, gives us a quartet, older but no wiser, who find themselves adrift in the Lucky Country. The Inbetweeners franchise has two key elements: male friendship and uncontrollable bodily fluids. These are themes that have the potential to endure – The Inbetweeners 7: The Nursing Home Years seems perfectly plausible – although the show’s creators, Iain Morris and Damon Beesley, have insisted there is no prospect of another instalment.
In the meantime, The Inbetweeners 2 movie, co-directed by Morris and Beesley, which opened last week in Britain, has just scored the highest weekend box office of the year.
After school, the four have gone their separate ways: Jay (James Buckley) the grossest of the four, has headed to Australia. He sends back ludicrously glowing reports and his three friends decide to join him Down Under, hoping against hope that his tales of endlessly obliging Aussie girls are true.
They have other reasons for their journey. Will (Simon Bird) is still smarting from the pranks of fellow students and a Harry Potter costume party humiliation. Simon (Joe Thomas) sees an escape from his controlling psycho girlfriend; and Neil (Blake Harrison) hopes he can fulfil his dream of becoming a dolphin trainer.
Alarm bells tend to go off when press aren’t invited to see a film before it gets released. In this case, it’s not because the movie is, as James Buckley’s character Jay might say, “wank”, but an effort to ramp the hype. After The Inbetweeners Movie grossed £40m at the box office it’s critic-proof and anyway, fans of the four ‘everylads’ from the Home Counties will be delighted to hear the jokes flow when Will, Neil and Simon surprise Jay in Australia for the ‘gap year’ trip of a lifetime.
Jay lures his old schoolmates under false pretences: “He makes out he’s become this superstar DJ living in a mansion in Australia having sex with loads of amazing girls,” Buckley told NME. In fact, the self-proclaimed “bantersaurus” is a toilet attendant in a Sydney nightclub pining for ex-girlfriend Jane while dossing in a tent on his uncle’s lawn.
The guys are “down under” in the “bush” so, as you expect, the pair writer/director Damon Beesley and Iain Morris make the most of double entendres. It’s like a Carry On film for Generation Y as the four try not to commit the cardinal sin of putting “muff before mates.” If some of the gags don’t quite hit the mark, don’t worry there’ll be another threw right into your face – like the bit finds Blake Harrison’s Neil gets his balls licked by a dog while dressed as Hermione from Harry Potter.
If you want gross-out humour it’s coming at you by the bowel-full. In one orchestrally soundtracked sequence the major humiliation happens to Will (Simon Bird). An homage to Bill Murray’s golf comedy Caddyshack finds a camera-tracked fool in a swimming pool triggered by Neil’s “irritating bowels”.
The focus remains firmly on the delusional quartet, confidently drawn and depicted. Things fall away around them, however: the supporting characters are less deftly written, and the female characters are particularly disposable.
The Australian elements seem hastily inserted and incidental: the film could have been set in any country that had a water park and a place to get lost. But as a hymn to male bonding, and an exploration of the comic possibilities of what happens when a turd hits a water slide, The Inbetweeners 2 movie is a precisely crafted, assured piece of work.