American fans of the hit British series “The Inbetweeners” can finally rejoice. The movie version opens in limited release stateside this weekend after its UK release more than a year ago.
The British comedy “The Inbetweeners” is one of those movies that I walk into totally discarding the customary cinematic rubric that I measure most movies against. It’s not that I believe “The Inbetweeners” deserves a different kind of treatment more so than it requires it — at least if you want to enjoy it.
If I were to walk into the movie with my usual standards of evaluation, it would be a complete disappointment in every respect. The story is hardly original, following the same conventional formula used by every slapstick comedy that’s come out of Hollywood since “American Pie.” It’s sexually caustic, insultingly misogynistic, embarrassingly dumb and straight-up predictable. Simply by those qualities, the movie already has more going against it than for it.
So why instead not let my guard down, take a chill-pill and relish the teenage stupidity that fills this type of comedy? I did, and I laughed every bit as hard at the silly jokes as the band of 15-year-olds in stitches next to me.
The movie follows four teenagers fresh out of high school who decide to squeeze all the fun they missed out on during the last four years into a weeklong vacation in Greece (why they choose Greece is beyond me). First, there’s Will, broad-nosed with a sonorous British accent, whose self-effacing nature resembles geeky Jim Levenstein from the “American Pie” series. Then there’s Jay, the quasi-leader who tends to condescend to the rest of the group, especially Simon, whose obsession with his ex-girlfriend Carli is almost too easy to poke fun at. And rounding out the group is Neil, who doesn’t do much except dog-hump fat, old women. Quite the quartet of morons, right?
It’s almost unlikely that this band of misfits could dole up a substantial 90-minute narrative about testosterone-fueled, giddy dorks finally showing signs of maturity and social acumen, even if the movie pretends to be this — which I don’t think it does. Instead, the four teenagers feel like a hyperbole of the word “moron.” They fashion pink T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Pussay Patrol” above a Sylvester-cat with an erect penis, earnestly believing this uniform will get them some action. They frequent the same empty, lifeless nightclub in Greece, despite the fact their chances of getting laid are slimmer here than they were in high school. And they screw up every chance they have with the only group of girls that show the least bit of interest in them throughout the trip.
It all sounds very reminiscent of every other raunchy comedy about horny teens — and it is. But “The Inbetweeners’” principal cast is boisterous and quirky enough to make the same naughty jokes, if not fresh, at least entertaining in a British way. Will’s eloquent, relentless and pedantic chatter never ceases to amuse in an annoying manner, and his odd chemistry with hottie Alison provides an interesting romantic paradigm. Jay seldom drops his arrogant prick mode, but his consistency at least ups the stakes little by little for the rest of the team. Simon always has a reason to get naked in public, a segway into some of the most hilarious moments on screen. And Neil … well, he’s just sort of a fourth wheel in the game.
Like most American teen comedies before it, “The Inbetweeners” has plenty of vomit, booze, nudity and virginity-losing. If you want to be in stitches for 90 minutes, then look no farther than these British blokes.