DIRECTORS: Damon Beesley, Iain Morris52850

CAST: Simon Bird, Joe Thomas, James Buckley, Blake Harrison, Belinda Stewart-Wilson, Tamla Kari, Emily Berrington, Freddie Stroma

RUNNING TIME: 93 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: Social outcasts Will (Bird), Simon (Thomas), Jay (Buckley) and Neil (Harrison) reunite for a holiday in Australia, where of course nothing goes without at least one embarrassing incident…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

The first feature spin-off of the popular British sitcom The Inbetweeners made over £45 million at the UK box office, and not without good reason. Not only did we get a bigger story that nicely rounded out to a feature-length film but we also felt a sense of the writing, characterisation and riotous humour that made the sitcom so beloved by fans all across the country. That being said, it could feel a bit sticky at times and, dare we say it, episodic; more like an extended episode than an actual film.

Now, after repeated claims that there would not be a follow-up even after its massive success, they’ve given in demands and made one anyway. People were sceptic, especially after they saw critically-derided imitators such as Keith Lemon: The Film and Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie try and cash in on the success of the first film. Even the trailers weren’t that promising and mostly laugh-free, though creators and writers – and with this film, first-time directors – Iain Morris and Damon Beesley stressed that the funniest moments were deliberately kept from the promotional material. But at the end of the day, where does The Inbetweeners 2 stand as part of the TV-adaptation trend its predecessor began?

Thankfully, it’s by far better-made and more competent than those other films, because for once this is an adaptation that FEELS like an adaptation. There is a Syd Field-approved first, second and third act, the characters go on personal arcs and growths (the likes of which there wouldn’t otherwise be time for in a 20-odd minute episode), and it genuinely feels big and adventurous. In other words, it feels more like a film than the first one did which ultimately makes it smoother and perhaps better this second time round.

As directors, Morris and Beesley bring a sense of style to the proceedings, including a frequent use of split-screen and an impressive tracking shot at the start of the film that echoes The Wolf of Wall Street of all things. Their biggest surprise unto the audience, however, is the recognition of genuine emotion and heart as felt by the four boys themselves. While Simon Bird, Joe Thomas, James Buckley and Blake Harrison as Will, Simon, Jay and Neil respectively can play these characters in their sleep by this point, Morris and Beesley give them direction that brings out the warmer sides of these four characters and their friendship towards each other. Most of it is played for laughs, such as one particular character’s wobbling lip, but a later poignant scene set in the Outback has almost no music playing over it and just lets the emotion and performances play out to a shockingly effective level. Just that scene alone is better-written and better-directed than any passing second in Keith Lemon, Mrs Brown’s Boys et al, which is saying a lot when one really looks at those train-wrecks.

Of course, they never forget about the laughter which this movie thankfully has plenty of to offer. The banter between the four boys remains as strong and witty as it was in the TV series and first film, with Harrison’s dim-witted Neil getting a good share of the laughs as well as being the (ahem) provider of this film’s biggest gross-out gag, involving a water slide and some dirty underwear. Even the sex and bodily-functions gags that would usually appeal to the lowest common denominator don’t feel so condescending here, and just adds even more to the usual public embarrassment fans have come to expect from these people – that is, except for a couple of jabs against transsexuals during its closing moments which some people may take offense at, especially if they felt the same way about their treatment in other comedies like The Hangover Part 2.

Like that first Hangover sequel, there is a small feeling of familiarity regarding the film’s plot – the Inbetweeners travelling abroad to Australia is not that different to their Malia adventures in film #1 – but not enough that it feels like a complete retread. Though similar to its predecessor, it does its own thing this time round with new situations and a more sentimental context than the simple idea of a lad’s holiday to the Greek party town. It does play around with elements from the first film, particularly the inclusion of Simon and Jay’s previous love interests – the former having become a scarily obsessed girlfriend who forms part of Simon’s arc throughout the film – and Malia itself is mentioned a couple of times, but for the most part The Inbetweeners 2 is its own thing and mostly succeeds in giving its target audience exactly what they’d expect from the characters in this remote and foreign location.

If this truly is the final time we see Will, Simon, Jay and Neil together in any format be it TV or film, then it is a satisfying send-off that should please both fans and audiences alike. But take that with a pinch of salt – remember, they said the exact same thing last time…

SO, TO SUM UP…

The Inbetweeners 2 is among the higher standard of British comedy adaptations, serving as both a satisfying sequel to its predecessor and as a fitting (supposed) end to the antics of the four central characters. Funny, lovably disgusting, and even a little poignant at times thanks to the strong direction by Iain Morris and Damon Beesley, it should teach any future cash-in – looking at you, David Brent – that as long as you have everything that made the source material popular to begin with, then you can rest easy and know that you’re providing decent entertainment for your audience.