Four friends, laden with romantic troubles, set out on a sex-filled vacation to an exotic foreign country. Yes that's the setup to Sex and the City 2, but it's also the premise of The Inbetweeners Movie, a hit British comedy that is just making its way to American theaters today. Well, a few theaters, at least. The movie came out in the UK over a year ago, but it took a while for the film to get a US distributor, hence the delay. Was the wait worth it? Yes and no.
I suppose it's likely that many of you, most of you probably, don't know what the hell I'm talking about. But you should! Oh but you should. The movie is based on the show The Inbetweeners, which we've mentioned before, as part of a general statement about our burgeoning (or enduring) anglophilia. But let's take a moment to talk more in-depth about this wonderful, disgusting show. The Inbetweeners, which lasted for three glorious seasons beginning in 2008, concerns four dorky guys, Neil, Jay, Simon, and school newcomer Will, living in suburban London who spend most of their time trying to get lucky. Ever heard the word (cover your eyes, Britons) "clunge"? Well, you will hear it on The Inbetweeners, and you will hear it a lot. There's also plenty of "fanny," "gash," and other euphemisms for a young lady's private area thrown about like confetti. (You can open your eyes again, John Bulls.) It's a truly filthy show. For example (NSFW):
But don't let that scare you away. The show also has lots of, y'know, heart. Which is a combination that might sound corny and treacly, like it is in the awful-by-comparison American Pie movies, but The Inbetweeners is actually pretty keen human behavior. The characters are slyly and richly realized by the quartet of talented actors, and watching the show your heart gently breaks as often as you gasp with horrified laughter. It's a full-service experience!
Do not, I repeat, do not endeavor to watch the execrable American version that appeared on MTV recently. Instead go straight to YouTube, where the original show is readily available (NSFW, again):
This being a British-length series, it won't take you long to plow through every delightfully excruciating episode. Nothing really happens, there's some romantic intrigue and some potty humor and that's about it, but what really happens in high school beyond that? Really you're watching the show for the ambling hijinks, the sharp British humor mixing with traditionally American teen gunk. It's really the perfect continental crossover show.
Which is why the new MTV version is such a shame. And why we should be excited about the arrival of the movie. And yet... As often happens when shows try to make the big screen conversion (ahem, SATC), the movie tries to go a bit too big. The boys go on a lads holiday to Crete, taking them out of the cozy milieu of their suburban school and surrounding environs, and while that doesn't exactly sink the movie, there's something off about the change in locale. It feels a bit crusty, as movie conceit. Especially when the film becomes a traditional trip-gone-awry comedy, complete with cruddy hotel, funny-talkin' foreign people, and a quartet of girls tailor-made for our foursome of guys. How convenient! This movie essentially has the dramatic structure of an Olsen Twins movie, they've just added a f--k of a lot of swears. The core humor is still there, and the guys are still charming in their gross way, but there's something awfully effortful about the whole thing. It's a bit unseemly to see this crew trying so hard here when they usually have such a winningly natural dynamic.
That said, if you become a fan of the show, and you really should, the big movie is still worth a watch. We get some Simon/Carli resolution, there's plenty of horrific sexual monologuing from Jay, and there's a nice, subtly wistful tone to the post-graduation setting. I wish they hadn't made it such a traditional romantic fantasy — everyone ends up pretty happy in the end — because the show was smarter and more truthful than that, but the intention and heart is still in the right place. For all the talk of Sherlock and Downton Abbey, such sleek and elegant affairs, it's nice to see the Brits get a bit rude. In fact, in The Inbetweeners they come across as far less stuffy than us Puritanical Americans. You can't say that on television here. Over there, you most certainly can.