Film Review: The Inbetweeners 2 (MA15+) (UK, 2014)

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Studio executives know the value of the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That sort of thinking has led to countless terrible and lazy sequels because the film-makers know that audiences will turn up no matter what dribble they serve up onscreen. However, sometimes more of the same is a good thing. The three seasons of The Inbetweeners were so damn good due to the brilliant writing of creators Damon Beesly and Iain Morris and the comedic expertise of Simon Bird, James Buckley, Blake Harrison and Joe Thomas. It was a relief when 2011’s The Inbetweeners Movie turned out to be just as hilarious and touching as the series had been. Phenomenal box office takings ensured that we now have The Inbetweeners 2, which thankfully continues to deliver the big laughs and big heart that we have come to expect from the boys.

Will (Simon Bird), Simon (Joe Thomas) and Neil (Blake Harrison) still haven’t found their groove since finishing school. Will gets picked on at uni, Simon is dating a clingy psychopath and Neil is as oblivious as ever. They decide to head to Australia for a holiday, where Jay (James Buckley) has supposedly found success as a DJ in a popular Sydney club. After being reunited with Jay, the boys head off on a backpacking trip around the country in search of adventure and girls.

Each of the four leads fit their roles so perfectly now that it’s hard to separate them from each other, and their comedic sensibilities continue to grow. Bird has kept Will endearingly dorky without becoming insufferable, Thomas has taken the ‘straight man’ role of Simon and given it great colour, and Harrison has magically turned Neil into some sort of inspirational optimist. But perhaps most impressively, Buckley has developed Jay from a disgusting sex maniac into a three dimensional character who uses lies and obscenities to cover up his insecurities; it really is a wonderful performance. Emily Berrington and Freddie Stroma do some nice work in their supporting roles, while it’s nice to see Tamla Kari and Lydia Rose Bewley reprising their roles from the first film. It’s a shame though that Laura Haddock, who had such great chemistry with Bird in the first film, does not appear this time around.

Creators and writers Beesly and Morris have taken on the role of co-directors this time around, and they do a great job. They also keep the pace of the film brisk; it keeps moving the entire time and doesn’t overstay its welcome. It wouldn’t be The Inbetweeners without some good old gross-out humour, and The Inbetweeners 2 delivers it in spades. A set piece in which the boys visit a water park contains a series of hilarious occurrences that will definitely have you cringing. One of the comedic highlights comes in a quiet moment around the campfire when Will plays guitar and sings a love song to the other backpackers. It’s difficult to watch yet impossible to look away from and Bird nails it.

It’s great to see a movie that doesn’t treat Australia and its inhabitants as a big joke. Sure, some humour in the film is found by perpetuating inaccurate cultural stereotypes about our country, that’s to be expected. But the film also paints Australia as a beautiful and exciting place to visit, which is better than we usually get. Diverse filming locations in Sydney, Byron Bay, the Gold Coast and the South Australian town of Marree give the film a variety of genuine Aussie backdrops.

Each of you probably knows by now whether or not you are going to enjoy The Inbetweeners 2. Fans of the series are highly unlikely to come away feeling dissatisfied, and even casual viewers will find it enjoyable. The Inbetweeners has been popular first and foremost because it is funny, but its merit lies somewhere deeper than that. We’ve all grown up and had friends like Will, friends like Simon, friends like Neil and (scarily) friends like Jay. The sexual humour and bodily function jokes spring organically from what is, at its core, a series about friendship. Let’s hope that we get the chance to catch up with these friends for many years to come.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The Inbetweeners 2 will be released in cinemas around Australia tomorrow.

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