There’s been a dearth of great comedies in 2011 (with the exception of Bridesmaids and Submarine) so God Save the Queen and Rule Britannia: The Inbetweeners Movie is gut-bustingly hilarious. Humble, based-on-TV origins and minuscule budget be damned. This low-rent lads flick packs in more laughs than most of the year’s other comedies combined.
True, it has the advantage of an in-built audience fresh from the hit E4 series on which it’s based. But what’s nice about the film is how it expands on the characters we’ve come to know and love (and wince at) on television over the past few years. Not everyone will be won over of course: those unfamiliar with the series may find their tolerance for teen vulgarity limited.
But those willing to run with it will find the movie a hysterically painful (or painfully hysterical) experience, one that’s flecked with just enough sweetness a la American Pie so as not to become overbearing. It even overcomes the real elephant in the corner: the dreaded ‘Brits Go Abroad on Holiday’ tag, always the last resort of a TV series desperate to hold onto its audience.
Talking of pachyderms in the blind spot, lovestruck Simon (Joe Thomas) has one: his girlfriend Carli (Emily Head) has just broken up with him. But his friends -geeky Will (Simon Bird), gobby Jay (James Buckley) and dopey Neil (Blake Harrison) -have an idea of how he can get over his break-up. After all, what do teenage boys do when such an event coincides with the end of school? Jet off to the boozy resort of Malia in Crete of course, seeking carnal pursuits on top of booze, more booze and yet more carnal pursuits (Jay puts it less tactfully).
Yes, it’s a somewhat lopsided view of teen wish fulfilment (not everyone would see this as their ideal holiday) and there are frequent moments when the film becomes too enamoured of its own coarseness, just like the TV series. But it’s saved by four immensely talented lead performers, all with a razor sharp sense of comic timing. Buckley’s crass Jay gets all the jaw-dropping lines, Bird does the social awkwardness thing perfectly and Thomas’ back story is the main spine of the film but most heartwarming is Harrison as Neil: perfectly secure in his own idiocy. Bird’s wry narration is another major bonus (‘We woke up to what sounded like Bigfoot having an asthma attack’).
Writers Iain Morris and Damon Beesley meanwhile, along with director Ben Palmer (all of whom are holdovers from the small screen incarnation) boast a sharp understanding of the teenage mindset -in fact one of the movie’s great strengths is how it sketches the four women whom the boys find themselves lusting after. Far from simply focusing on the usual brand of male chauvinism, Morris and Beesley’s screenplay also focuses on the teenage need for warmth and security, best exemplified in a lovely little scene where hesitant virgin Will enjoys an intimate moment with Allison (Laura Haddock).
Such vignettes are what lift The Inbetweeners Movie above the usual stream of predictable hand shandy gags. It’s a cracking send-off for the guys and in the dance-in-the-deserted-nightclub scene, unveils what is possibly the funniest sight gag in a film this year. Rule Britannia indeed.