THE INBETWEENERS MOVIE. Starring Simon Bird, Joe Thomas, James Buckley, and Blake Harrison. Directed by Ben Palmer. Rated MA15+ (Strong sexual references, coarse language and nudity). 97 min.
This is a British comedy that is a movie version of the well known TV production, “The Inbetweeners”. The television series involved both the director of this film (Ben Palmer), and its producer (Christopher Young).
Four teenage boys decide to go on holiday to Malia, the nightclub capital of Greece. Malia is a tourist mecca for Crete, and regularly visited by young British tourists who are not searching for peace, and tranquillity. The boys - Will (Simon Bird), Simon (Joe Thomas), Jay (James Buckley) and Neil (Blake Harrison) - have finished at school, and depressing events cement their resolve to take their vacation abroad. Simon has been dumped by his girlfriend, Jay’s grandfather has died suddenly in the midst of Jay’s bout of regular sexual abuse, and Will’s father has left his mother and married a young mistress.
Desperate to recover, everybody goes on a trip to Crete. The trip quickly establishes the pattern. In Crete, everything they do to become romantically attached in some way goes wrong. Their chatting-up of girls to attract the opposite sex is awful. They become drunk, engage in random sexual activity, and generally behave obnoxiously. Ensconced in a seedy hotel in Malia, the bad behaviour continues. Neil engages in sex with an older woman, who is demeaned; they insult a wheel-chair-bound daughter of a family at a hotel swimming pool; and they are thrown out of the hotel. The girls they meet up with finally form attachments to them, after a huge number of objectionable jokes and inappropriate activities. Most of the language is foul, the scripting is rough, and almost entirely ignorant of political correctness, and virtually all of the jokes are very crude. Constant swearing, partying, boozing, and carousing are the order of the day almost for the entire film, which runs like an extended “schoolies” time-out. The movie reaches a particularly low point, when Jay passes over a drug that he has hidden in his backside to a harassing he-man on a “love” boat, just before his overweight girlfriend decides to give him oral sex.
At one level, this is a movie that quite intentionally pushes the limit in what teenagers and adults are expected to laugh at. Some jokes and situations are funny, but mostly their appeal is always in the context of objectionable behaviour. The fact that the four boys are sex-obsessed may explain a lot, and the worst of the humour is softened a little by some good scripting that has bite, and some witty, satirical observations of British tourists on holidays. But, for the most part, the humour is embarrassingly unsubtle. Underneath all the crudity is a coming-of-age movie desperate to show itself, and it manages to surface. Attachments end up being meaningful, but not for any moral reason that is edifying.
The acting is very enthusiastic. Four likeable teenagers, with acting talent, hurl themselves formidably into their roles, and everyone is expected to enjoy the crudity immensely. The final scene shows Neil’s father biking naked through the streets of Malia, wearing a school tie to cover his forehead. The film concludes, as it starts.
This is a movie not to be recommended, except for those for whom crudity doesn’t seem to matter. Teenagers may enjoy the movie. However, the film’s restricted rating is well out of line with its target audience. With this movie, parents are more likely to wonder where it was that they went so wrong, but the movie doesn’t present any models for them to follow.
Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Out November 24, 2011.