Few people will disagree with me on this one: E4’s The Inbetweeners is one of the best sitcoms of this century. Not just that, it’s up there with the very best that this country has ever produced. The Inbetweeners was one of those shows you had to record; you missed half of it because you were laughing so much. Damon Beesley and Iain Morris came up with a show that was laugh for a good solid minute funny, and constantly cringe making. You know a TV series is a hit when you’re on a night out with friends and everyone has seen it, talking about their favourite moments, and which Inbetweener they’re most like.
Once the series had come to an end, FilmFour took the gamble of commissioning The Inbetweeners Movie. Big screen spin-offs are rarely a good thing; most end up being swept under the carpet and never spoken of again. Just as the series ended up being a fondly remembered classic, so too did its cinema debut. The Inbetweeners Movie may have rehashed plenty of scenes from other horny teenage comedies, but it had triple the jokes of its American cousins as well as being surprisingly sweet at times.
You can’t blame FilmFour for deciding to make a sequel; stick a poster up of The Inbetweeners and fans will queue up to see it. The problem is that the first film was as near-as-damn-it perfect as you can get, plus it wrapped things up nicely for Will, Jay, Simon and Neil: they’re no longer Inbetweeners, the boys have finally become men. Where do you go from there?
With The Inbetweeners 2, Will, Simon and Neil decide to pay their old friend Jay a visit in Australia, convinced his life has got to be a whole lot better than theirs. True to form, Jay is all talk; he’s having a lousy time down under. In an effort to cheer each other up, the lads go on a road trip round Oz in Jay’s car, the Mobile Virgin Conversion Unit; a wreck on four wheels with Peter Andre’s face spray painted across it (it makes Simon’s car from the TV series look like a top-of-the-range Audi).
Whereas this summer’s other comedy sequel, 22 Jump Street, played on the fact that it was the same film and everyone was in on the joke, The Inbetweeners 2’s biggest problem is that it’s virtually a carbon copy of the last film, but Morris and Beesley are hoping you won’t notice. Jokes that are supposed to make you red-faced from laughing lose their punch as you’ve seen most of them before, all done better in the first film and all three series.
That’s not to say that The Inbetweeners 2 is anything like American Pie 2, it has some moments that will have you laughing at full volume the cinema and not caring: Jay’s daydream about what he thinks life is like down under; Neil feeding a dolphin; Simon trying to dump his girlfriend via Skype, only to end up proposing to her; and finally, best of the lot, Will trying to avoid a turd on a waterslide. While The Inbetweeners 2 has plenty of one-liners that will have you sniggering, there is nowhere near the amount of howlers that were in the first film.
What saves the sequel is the chemistry between the four actors. Simon Bird (Will), James Buckley (Jay), Blake Harrison (Neil), and Joe Thomas (Simon) all do a faultless job of portraying four young British lads that are instantly recognisable, each of them memorable. Despite the insults and trying to embarrass each other, theirs is a solid friendship and, while Will and the gang would never admit it, they care about each other. There’s a touching scene when all four of them are convinced they are going to die in the outback and say their goodbyes to one-another. It’s brilliantly over-the-top, but also emotional.
Morris and Beesley throw in a couple of nice ideas. Tamla Kuri turns up again as Simon’s girlfriend Lucy, only she’s far from the sweet, selfless girl in the first film; here she’s a control freak who deletes any of Simon’s female friends on Facebook that she doesn’t like the look of, constantly puts him down, and gets angry over the tiniest little thing, such as Simon being a couple of minutes late Skyping her. Kuri isn’t onscreen all that much, but when she is she’s always funny. There will be many men out there who will sympathise with poor Simon.
Whereas the first film was a show no mercy portrayal of club eighteen-to-thirty holidays, The Inbetweeners 2 has its sights firmly set on pretentious, guitar-playing, sandal wearing backpackers. Another highlight is Will going on a venom spitting rant about why none of these people want to save the planet or find themselves; they’re simply there because mummy and daddy paid for their holiday.
The Inbetweeners 2 isn’t an all-out disappointment, but it doesn’t compare either to the sitcom or the original film. You wonder whether Morris and Beesley decided, from the outset here, to go toe-to-toe with American comedies in terms of gross-out gags. By doing this, they’ve forgotten what won the series so many awards. The Inbetweeners has never been about projectile vomiting or losing control of your bowels (although these are two of the finest scenes from E4’s sitcom), it’s about teenage boys failing miserably in their attempts to be popular; you feel embarrassed for them because you’ve been there. Sadly, you don’t get any of this with Will, Jay, Simon and Neil’s latest adventure. Everyone has their favourite scenes from The Inbetweeners, the tragedy with this sequel is that none of its set pieces will make it onto anyone’s Best Of list.
3 out of 5