The morning after the night Simon’s ball bag popped out at the charity fashion show is etched on my memory like ‘I Love Carly D’Amato’ on a suburban driveway. Not only do I remember sharing the OMG, water cooler moment with my fellow filthy-minded sixth formers, but I also recall the tacit understanding between both students AND teachers that we had all seen a testicle on telly last night, and we would never be the same again.
This was the universal appeal of The Inbetweeners. Despite being set firmly in the noughties, a world of instant messaging sound-tracked by The Wombats, people up and down the country, of all ages, saw themselves in the four unlikely lads. While creating a new socialect (‘fwend’, ‘clunge’, ‘bus wanker’), the show drew comedy out of commonality: your first car; passing exams; getting wasted because of boredom; unrequited love. It was, in effect, the right show at the right time. Grange Hill and Byker Grove dealt with ‘real’ issues, but were never representative of how teenagers can be lovable fuckwits.
Inevitably, The Inbetweeners ran out of steam in its final third season. Jay would say something about copulation, Will would make a sarcastic comment, Neil would grin idiotically and Simon would tell everybody to ‘Fuck off’ with unrivalled exasperation. It was still wholly honest, but a little predictable, and the writing did not allow for the necessary emotional development that is needed by all great series.
This lack of momentum was hardly fixed in the first film three years ago, which, although it had its moments of tittering, looked amateurish and closer to Hollyoaks than Hollywood. But of course, it became the most financially successful British comedy ever and a sequel was inevitable, even though the cast are pushing 30. The early signs were worrying, with late promotion and laugh-free trailers, but The Inbetweeners 2 is an occasionally mature, frequently side-splitting, often disgusting curtain call for Rudge Park Comp’s most famous alumni.
After their disastrous trip to Malia, there was talk of the quartet being good New Labour hangovers and wasting their time at uneh, but unsurprisingly only Simon (Joe Thomas) and Will (Simon Bird) made it. Even more unsurprisingly, they both hate it: Simon cannot shake off his hoodie-destroying girlfriend, and Will is getting bullied because he doesn’t understand life. Village idiot Neil (Blake Harrison) is plodding along in a bank, where he boasts that he is the cleverest non-Asian in the group. During a sad evening at the pub in Bristol (energised only by the sight of Neil’s drooping bollocks), the trio receive an email from Jay (James Buckley), who claims to be living like Tony Montana in a Cribs mansion, surrounded by silicone honeyz who use fellatio as his alarm clock. Enticed by the thought of girls being down under, and with no explanation of how they get time off uneh/work or how they get the funds for a short-notice flight to Sydney, the boys head to Oz, presumably via the Swelling Prick Road.
Those expecting a 90 minute music video will obviously be disappointed, as Jay’s bullshitting ability is magnified by the change in time zone and the boys actually have to sleep in a tent in Jay’s uncle’s garden. Fortunately, a chance meeting with Will’s old school friend propels our heroes into the Australian experience. Where the first film parodied the raucous inebriation of Brits abroad, this attempts to lampoon the Gap Yah generation, the moneyed and pretentious youths who convince themselves that they are ‘travelling’ rather than on holiday. In a short time, writers/directors Damon Beesley and Iain Morris explore awkward hostel sex, dreadlocked white people with double-barrelled names, camp fires and superficial discussions about ‘closed-mindedness’. In one moment of extraordinary clarity, Jay looks at the fire and questions: “Why is there always some cunt with a guitar?”
This send-up is a constant chundering of excellence, inducing big laughs and cringing. Will’s school friend Katie is the kind of girl whose Facebook profile picture depicts her cuddling a mass of Africans, and she vaguely harps on about ‘spirituality’ like it’s as simple as scratching your bum. Oh, and she greets people by kissing them ON THE MOUTH. Beesley and Morris do well to make you hate her, thus intensifying the tragedy of Will’s infatuation with her.
By far the stand-out comedic moments take the flirtations with gross-out comedy seen in the TV series and cranks them up to FML. A day at the water park seems like a fun chance to see some babes in bikinis, but instead Neil’s IBS gives a modern, terrifying twist to the ‘log’ flume. I haven’t wanted to simultaneously laugh and vomit in the cinema so much since Borat and Azamat Bagatov had a naked wrestle. Elsewhere, if you like gags about pissing on faces, urine for a treat. In fact, I can’t remember a comedy that so liberally showed the flaccid phallus, a motif which reaches a horrible climax (steady…) in a credits scene in Thailand.
Certainly, these set pieces are far more successful than any jokes in the script, but thankfully the writing has left some space for moments of true heart and quiet reflection. There is great tension between the boys at various points, but this is never melodramatic and doesn’t bog down the comedy. Instead, scenes of forgiveness are swift and poignant; totally reflective of the ungrudging forgetfulness of teenage boys. Like the series, we are treated to a few important moments with Jay’s bullish father, the reason behind Jay’s deep self-loathing. In a disgustingly touching moment, Jay wonders whether his dad should have just spunked on his mum’s arse instead of impregnating her. You’d cry if you weren’t so disturbed.
As expected, the film cannot sustain what it does well for the entire running time. Some comedic strands completely fall flat, including Jay’s idiot of an uncle and Neil’s odd encounter with a dolphin. This adds unnecessary minutes to the finished product and makes the bizarre, Beckettian final act almost unbearable to watch. Even then, the Happy Days homage is too neatly wrapped up, and it seems that the arid wasteland of the outback dries up the laughs in the end. For sure, be it at the water park or knee deep in clunge, life for the Inbetweeners is much better down where its wetter.