Wednesday August 17th 2011
Generally speaking, when movies aren’t screened for critics it’s because they’re awful. Killers, Date Movie, The Wicker Man remake: none of them were press screened and all of them turned out to be unspeakably shit. But that never seemed like the case with The Inbetweeners Movie, the big screen edition of E4’s wildly popular teen comedy. Its entire marketing campaign seems to have been based around the idea that its audience are a constant: they’re all going to see the movie regardless of hype or critical opinion, in which case why bother wasting time and money breaking into new markets? Even the filmmakers’ painfully literal choice of title seems to be saying, ‘look, if this doesn’t mean anything to you, don’t buy a ticket’.
Luckily, The Inbetweeners does mean something to me (though I wouldn’t say I’m a massive fan) so this morning I dutifully hopped on a bus to South London’s riot-happy Clapham to see the film at one of its very first public showings.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that Will, Jay, Simon and Neil’s big-screen debut doesn’t feel particularly cinematic. The movie’s pacing is all over the place, and even on a technical level it’s not really up to scratch (the sound mix, darling, don’t get me started). But neither is it simply an extended episode of the TV series, as many were predicting. Instead, the creators seem all too aware that they’re writing for a cinema audience and litter the film with ‘pause for laughter’ moments that seem entirely at odds with the the show’s fast-paced, quick-witted tone. These might go unnoticed in a big screen on opening night when there’s enough laughter to cover them, but won’t do the film any favours in a quiet showing like the one I went to or — more pertinently — on DVD (surely The Inbetweeners Movie‘s natural habitat).
Nonetheless, look past these awkward patches and you’ve got a film that — for the most part — is clearly more ‘labour of love’ than ‘pointless cash-in’. The central foursome are just as watchable as ever and the jokes come thick and fast (if, inevitably, hit and miss). Not much is expected of their female co-stars beyond standing around looking attractive, but even that seems oddly appropriate given the supremely adolescent mindset of our horny heroes. Best of all, the film is mercifully light on the narration that weighed down so many of the TV series’ best moments.
Trapped somewhat awkwardly between the small screen and the multiplex, The Inbetweeners Movie is liable to alienate both fans and newcomers in equal measure. But see it with a big enough audience (and for God’s sake ignore the pointless Gervaisian disability jokes) and chances are you’ll fall for it. It really does mean well.