(Damon Beesley, Iain Morris, 2014)
What made the television show The Inbetweeners so good - apart from the fact that it was genuinely funny - was that the four teenage boys at its centre were instantly recognisable as authentic, realistic teenage boys. Not the heightened, glamourised versions we usually get in tv and (especially) cinema, no; these boys were pathetic, confused, socially awkward, bitter, ignorant, sexually frustrated and generally horrible to one another. The writers and creators - Beesley and Morris, who here take over the direction too - placed these figures in some recognisable situations too, adding just a touch of comedic exaggeration and letting them loose. The result was a show that usually reduced me to tears of laughter at least once an episode, while always retaining its truthfulness in the form of the four boys at its heart.
This sequel to the original 2011 cinematic spin-off from the series finds those boys just on the cusp of manhood. Will (Simon Bird) and Simon (Joe Thomas) are at university, while Neil (Blake Harrison) works in a bank and Jay (James Buckley) is on a Gap Year in Australia. His email home to Neil, full of lies and fantasies, convinces the others to visit him for a two week holiday, but there tensions surface between a resentful Will and the others.
Where this is less successful than the tv show or even the first film is in it's story; there is a little too much obvious invention here, too much that feels like the silly imaginings of screenwriters trying desperately to find funny situations for their heroes. The pretentions and ridiculousness of British backpackers is surgically skewered here (competitive conversations about "amazing experiences", people playing guitar badly by campfires, white rastas etc) but it never has teh universality of the best story lines from the tv series. But even then, it is consistently funny, and one of the big comic set-pieces is brilliantly managed despite it's awesomely crude, broad humour.
It never really looks like a movie, but what really makes it work is what always made the tv show so good: it might just be the truest, most believable portrayal of teenage boys and friendship I've ever seen. That is partly down to the four leads, and mostly to the writing. These boys are always at each other, never letting anything go, always competing and bickering, their insults reliably bitter and hurtful. If that sounds unpleasant, then it ignores the warmth in the characterisation, the fondness for these boys and the dynamic between them, one that the film itself explicitly acknowledges.