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Review: 'The Inbetweeners' take a bawdy trek to Crete

Those hapless teens from the popular British TV series jump to the big screen for more rude and crude antics. Simon Bird's prudish tut-tuts make it all worthwhile.

September 06, 2012|By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
  • Joe Thomas, Blake Harrison, Simon Bird and James Buckley in "The Inbetweeners."
Joe Thomas, Blake Harrison, Simon Bird and James Buckley in "The Inbetweeners." (Courtesy of Wrekin Hill…)

"The Inbetweeners," a big-screen blowup of the popular British TV series about a quartet of hapless high-schoolers, is basically just another bawdy spring break movie — with an accent.

The film is only slightly more boorish than the racy cult hit was on telly and would probably not be worth the celluloid expended were it not for the bookish, brainy Will McKenzie (Simon Bird). He is the prudish charmer of the bunch and the glue that holds this foursome together as he tut-tut-tuts his way around a bikini-and-boozy hot spot on Crete where they've come to celebrate the end of high school.

The remaining misfits who have been with him from the beginning — the series ran from 2008 to '10 — are Simon (Joe Thomas), the sweet boy still obsessed with his high school crush; the sex-crazed Jay (James Buckley); and the big lug/cougar-loving Neil (Blake Harrison). Carli (Emily Head), the object of Simon's affection in high school, is headed to Crete too, just not with him.

The entire sense and sensibility of the TV series has been imported as well, starting with director Ben Palmer. The series' executive producers, Iain Morris and Damon Beesley, cowrote the outrageous farce. And the film itself is very much an extension of the original "Inbetweeners," a world where most hands are grossly overplayed, although a little tongue-in-cheek wit slips in here and there.

If there is a guiding principle at work here, it boils down to how rude and raunchy can things get as the guys' friendship is tested by their desperate bid to find someone, anyone, to have sex with. The creative minds behind the big-screen misadventure have certainly outdone themselves on the gross-out scale as every bodily function is explored and exposed in livid detail.

Part of what made the series work was the presence of parents who despite the misbehaving still saw the foursome as just boys. They briefly turn up in the movie — to see their babies off at the airport and kiss their boo-boos when they return — but are otherwise out of the picture. In their absence, some of the innocence that helped neutralize the disgusting stuff is lost.

This is a group that really shouldn't be left unattended. The mood is set when they slip into matching T-shirts ordered specifically for the trip — bright pink and plastered with something unrepeatable here, but it has to do with their main mission in Crete, which is sex, with women. The film has a grainy low-tech look to match the low-brow antics. The bad lighting and bizarre angles captured by director of photography Ben Wheeler's lens actually go a long way to making the farce seem almost real.

Remarkably, girls do come into play as more than just babes to bed. They are a very likable crew led by Alison (Laura Haddock), the impossibly beautiful blond who is also impossibly smart. Go figure. She's already got a Greek boyfriend but connects with Will on some strange cerebral level.

Their tart smart give and take is not only clever but also falls into the film's socially redeeming category, which is definitely on the light side. Lucy (Tamla Kari) is also lovely and has the patience of a saint when it comes to Simon's ongoing infatuation with Carli, one of the running gags. And Jane (Lydia Rose Bewley), plus-sized and proud, is a brassy hoot.

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