That The Inbetweeners Movie, based on the British coming-of-age television series, managed the biggest opening for a comedy in the history of the United Kingdom says a lot about how people feel about the characters in the show and less, I think, than about the movie itself. If you haven’t seen the television series — and you should — there’s not much reason to check out the movie. Save for the attachment the audience has with those characters, The Inbetweeners Movie offers little more than a generic teenage gross-out movie. There are some amusing moments, to be sure, but multiplex screens are too big a platform for a television show about the small and awkward humiliations associated with trying to get laid as a teenager.
The film picks up with the suburban foursome right after graduating high school, wherein they decide to take a summer vacation to Crete, ostensibly to get laid. Will (Simon Bird) sees it as an opportunity to rid himself of his pesky virginity before university; Simon (Joe Thomas) uses is as an opportunity to get over Carly, who breaks up with him after graduation (but who would, coincidentally, also wind up in Crete); and Neil (Blake Harrison) and Jay (James Buckley) are interested mostly in drinking themselves silly and talking about all the sex they will never have.
Fittingly, the four meet a group of four women around the same age, also from England, who make symetrical female companions and much of the movie deals with their attempts to navigate relationships with the women while overcoming certain obstacles: Will falls for a girl way out of his league, who also happens to have a boyfriend; Simon can’t seem to get over Carly long enough to pursue his match; Jay has problems with his companion’s weight; and Neil, well, Neil is too busy having sex with old women to pay much attention to the woman who is pursuing him.
The Inbetweeners Movie is not a bad one; it’s more broad than the television series, and pushes the gross-out humor further. Unfortunately, most of the comedy comes at the expense of the pathos. The film loses some of the intimacy of the television series, and instead of focusing primarily on the male friendships — the strength of the television series — it’s more centered on finding each of the guys their own little happy romantic ending. That’s a huge problem. The Inbetweeners isn’t supposed to be about happy romantic endings; it’s supposed to be about how those four guys pick each other up and deal with the fact that they will never achieve their happy romantic endings.
Moreover, the attempts at tiny subversions of the standard American Pie teen-movie formula, particularly with Simon’s character, end up backfiring. The results aren’t that funny and, more detrimentally, provide an unsatisfying end to the series (there are rumors, however, that the box-office success of the movie will lead to a second film). On the other hand, it does mean 90 more minutes with four fantastic characters, and while it’s far from a triumphant movie, it’s an agreeable enough way to kill an afternoon.