Jumping from across the pond over to this side of the world is a tough, but increasingly growing, gig for television shows. Be it the biggest example in this growing trend, The Office, or failed attempts like the Joel McHale-starring The ‘IT’crowd, TV shows are an easily adaptable medium, when they aren’t jumping out of the small screen. However, the far tougher attempt is the one now being made by the British series, The Inbetweeners.
Not only a well-respected British sitcom, but also one that has since sparked an MTV-backed US remake, but as of this Friday, it’s now a feature film. Following the story of four friends (the nerd, the sensitive, the dimwit and the arrogant one), the film takes these four graduating high-schoolers during their final vacation prior to entering University. Toss in an equally eclectic group of women, a looming break up and Grecian locales and you’ve got a comedy that has the makings of a broad, but laugh-filled chuckle-fest. However, that’s not what is ultimately on screen, instead being a poorly crafted, cartoonishly cliché-ridden and caricature-filled feature.
Originally launching in May of 2008, The Inbetweeners follows the story of four youngsters. The lead here is Will McKenzie (Simon Bird) who is looking for an escape from his life following his parent’s recent divorce. He also narrates the film, which finds him and his three friends set to go on vacation. There’s Simon Cooper (Joe Thomas), who like Will, is trying to just get away. Following a break-up from his long time girlfriend, he tries to get his mind off of her, only to find that she is also vacationing in the same era. Then there is the pair of horndogs, Jay and Neil. Jay (James Buckley) is an admitted obsessive about women, sex and everything else vulgar, with Neil (Blake Harrison) being a more gullible and dim-witted version of the former. Together they make up the four that are the show adaptation’s center, and their exploits the ones that we follow.
That said, they are easily the film’s weakest link, given that they are closer flesh colored concepts and character points than actually fleshed-out human beings.
As a film, The Inbetweeners Movie is entertaining. The film is helmed by Ben Palmer with a script from the show’s creators Damon Beesley and Iain Morris. Playing as the finale to the television series, the film is visually intriguing, but is ultimately a failure of breadth. The four characters are given their time to shine on screen, but are ultimately given nothing to do that is any more than clichés. The nerd falls for the most attractive woman on the planet, the recently dumped buffoon is too blind to see a woman fall in love with him, the lanky dweeb is nothing more than comic relief and finally the sex obsessed youngster finds that he may be falling for a woman who is polar opposite the type he brags about bagging.
These are plot points from every teen comedy from American Pie to The Breakfast Club, and all in between. Palmer, as a filmmaker, is fine. His appreciation for an upped budget is apparent, as the locales are beautifully shot, soundtrack entertaining and the pace is kept quite nicely. Never truly slowing down is definitely an issue with regards to the emotion-free romances that burst open here, but it’s a kinetic feature length adaptation of a show that never seemed to aspire to be anything more than just a ‘decadent’ comedy of errors. The supporting cast, particularly the four women that we ultimately meet, are really strong here, making this writer wish that it was their vacation we were following as not only are their issues far more intriguing, but their chemistry and charisma far greater as well. The only saving grace with regards to the leads here is Bird, who adds a tad bit of depth to an otherwise stale caricature. Otherwise, this film is as lifeless as they come.
While the jump from small to big screen may be tough, the one thing that fails this adaptation of the hit British TV show The Inbetweeners isn’t the constraints of the adaptation. Instead, inherent within the franchise are the deeper issues. Focusing on stale concepts rather than characters, the film feels like a bad cover song. Hitting all of the notes we’ve already heard, there appears to be talent here somewhere under the surface, but instead of trying something inventive, it’s nothing but the same tune, with different intonation.