It’s no secret that the creators and stars of beloved British TV series “The Inbetweeners” weren’t exactly keen on returning to do a sequel to The Inbetweeners Movie, their initial sendoff to teenage misfits Will, Simon, Jay, and Neil bumbling after girls and booze in suburban England. Using the familiar cliche of sending their sitcom stars abroad, they chanced upon a hit when it turned out the movie was actually really good, staying true to the spirit of the series while amping up the energy, making the most of the cinematic medium, and imagining a future for the boys beyond the awkward absurdity of their high school existence. It was a future they were happy to just keep imagining, but popular demand necessitated that they revisit the well and churn out another movie, so they gave birth to yet another lads-abroad sendoff, The Inbetweeners 2.
Let’s get it out of the way and admit right now that it’s not that great, in terms of either the series or the first movie, but there’s something inherently fascinating about the way it soldiers on for the sake of its fans. While writers Damon Beesley and Iain Morris and stars Simon Bird, Joe Thomas, James Buckley, and Blake Harrison insisted that this would be the last hurrah, a point they remain firm on today, they do a surprisingly good job of hiding their flagging enthusiasm. At the same time they’re very consciously informing us that they’re done with these characters. Some fans might hope to interpret its meandering plot and open-ended conclusion as the promise of endless adventures to come, but they’re really a demonstration that the concept has reached its full potential and has nowhere else to go. The Inbetweeners 2 constitutes the group’s final favor to its fans.
Beesley and Morris take over directing duties from series veteran Ben Palmer, who helmed the first movie, and do a reasonably good job of shooting the action. Things are promising early on; they kick things off with a massive fake out, mimicking a dark fantasy as they swoop in on the hooded forms of Will, Simon, and Neil, who have been tricked into attending (then denied entrance to) a party in full costume as Harry Potter characters. It’s a lot of work to put into one gag, particularly one that would only work fully in a theater, but it immediately puts the audience in the boys’ shoes as they’re laughed off the premises for their gullibility. They then hunker down in a pub where Neil reads aloud a message from Jay, who’s living in Australia. Beesley and Morris take this opportunity to fulfill many a fan’s longtime wish by giving an actual visual glimpse of Jay’s rich fantasy life in a dazzlingly dirty sequence that sadly isn’t bested by anything else later on. Even after all their time hanging out with compulsive liar Jay, his promise of the high life is enough to convince the three to leave dreary old England, so they do. Because.
The first Inbetweeners movie was a fast paced delight, thrumming to the club music of Malia, Crete as the boys pursued a very simple mission: get with girls. Mirroring them with the quartet of Allison, Lucy, Jane, and Lisa was the stroke of genius needed to give the movie shape. Here, Beesley and Morris can’t decide on a single narrative, offering instead a collection of subplots that jockey for attention. Sadly, only Lucy and Jane return from the first movie, with Allison and Lisa not even getting name-checked, and Lucy reduced to a stereotype that’s horrible even by Inbetweeners standards. Instead, we get pulled in different directions by Will trying to hook up with childhood gal pal Katie who’s turned up as a backpacker, Simon dealing with a murderously possessive Lucy back home, and Jay, ever the king of denial, pining for Jane. As for Neil, well, Neil gonna Neil.
Bird, Thomas, Buckley, and Harrison are all on top form, making the most of an uneven mixture of comedic elements that veers further into gross-out territory than normal, and feels strangely pessimistic compared to the rest of their output. Unfortunately, none of the supporting cast stand out, at least not in a Richard kind of way. Emily Berrington’s Katie is too much of a dip, and Freddie Stroma’s default villain Ben is too much of an asshole even in a universe consisting entirely of assholes and inbetweeners. Ben personifies the mean streak that courses through the movie, notably never receiving his comeuppance a la Theo James, even if he is kinda made fun of. It should be taken as a hint that the creators and cast want to move on. The boys are subjected to the same degradations time and time again, and the disjointed, episodic structure of this movie shows they could keep doing it if they really wanted to. But you can tell their heart’s no longer in it. The movie closes with that familiar clunky theme song, as if to repeat that this is the end of the show. And by the end of the show, they mean the end of it all.