Tag Archives: Simon Bird

The Inbetweeners 2: A Drubbing

However the second film is perhaps a step too far with few laughs and little endearment towards the main characters.

By Steve Norman (@StevePN86)

inbetweeners 2 3Six years ago The Inbetweeners hit the screen for the first time. Originally airing on E4 the sitcom about four sixth form lads who were not popular, not unpopular, hence the title, was an overnight success which spawned two more series, an American spinoff and as of this week two movies.

The T.V. series really encapsulated what it was like to be that age at school. It got the humour right, not making it too childish or immature but really ‘getting’ the ‘banter’ shared between a group of mates of that age.

A movie was announced and like many I feared that the Inbetweeners had jumped the shark but what we got was a worthy transfer from small screen to silver screen where Simon, Will, Neil and Jay ventured off to some Greek (I think) resort for their first lads holiday.

Just as the three T.V. series really understood school life, the first movie was a great take on a first holiday with your mates.

However the second film is perhaps a step too far with few laughs and little endearment towards the main characters.

The Inbetweeners 2 sees our heroes on a months ‘travelling’ around Australia to meet Jay who has gone out there to be a superstar DJ.

The biggest problem is that Jay and Will have become parodies of themselves while Simon has just acquired a bigger moron of a love interest than Carli (infuriatingly spelt with an ‘I’). Neil is the only one that has not suffered and gets the most laughs as a result.

Jay’s bullshit was always funny but his opening monologue, bragging about his life in Australia, is quite frankly over the top and ridiculous. While his brags about his Football Manager prowess getting him an offer of a role in the England set up or his sexual prowess at the Caravan Club were funny, this was just over done and got tedious quite quick.

Will has become too confident. He should never be picking up a guitar to impress a girl or going on a sober rant, even if what he was saying was spot on.

The jokes too seemed to be lowest common denominator with lots of gross out humour or slapstick. Of course I was not expecting sophisticated humour from the Inbetweeners, but the jokes in their previous outings did not seem so easy or obvious.

There are some plus points and a few laughs. Not many stand out as being that memorable but it certainly raised a few laughs. It just did not have me in stitches like I was hoping it would. The cameos at the end are a little pointless as well.

Apparently it was difficult enough to reunite the cast for this second outing and despite an obvious camaraderie and comradeship between the quartet it seems unlikely that they will return to complete a trilogy.

And given how disappointing this outing was that can only be a relief. At least the majority of the Inbetweeners legacy will be left intact.

You can listen to Steve talk about the film with the rest of the podcast team on the next episode, out some time in the next week or so. In the meantime, you can find him on Twitter @StevePN86.

The Inbetweeners 2: A Review

The Inbetweeners 2 is a send-off that encompasses the best and worst and the franchise.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

inbetweeners 2 4If ever there was an utterly unnecessary comedy sequel, The Inbetweeners 2 is most certainly it.  Fact of the matter is that this series was done.  Twice, first in that wonderfully melancholy and ambiguous TV ending and then in a giant blow-out film ending that gave the cast the send-offs that, in the moment considering the attachment many people would have had to them, it felt like they deserved.  The book was closed, it was done, they made three fantastic series of television and a surprisingly great film, they all got out before they had a chance of hitting a bum note, and everyone involved was free to pursue careers of having to have “with [x] from The Inbetweeners” forcibly suffixed to everything they do.  As per usual, though, money meant that the tale wasn’t quite over just yet and so everybody has been drawn back in for one last go-around even though there really doesn’t need to be one.

Consequently, The Inbetweeners 2 feels like a gratuitous victory lap more than anything else, something that’s especially pointless seeing as The Inbetweeners Movie was basically a victory lap as well, and a timelier one at that.  It doesn’t really need to exist, even as it tries desperately hard to adequately justify reasons for doing so (which it only just sort of does, but we’ll get to that).  It brings back pretty much all of the staples of the franchise (extended cringe humour, gross-out moments, cruelty, line-crossing, a not-100%-great attitude towards women) and ratchets everything up to 11, as if everyone involved knows that the money is all-but assured so why not go for broke?  The result ends up encompassing the best and worst of the series in one neat little package that is vastly inferior to the original yet is not without merit or enjoyment.

We are six months on from the ending of the first film and the post-Malia lives of our cast haven’t exactly been brimming with good times.  Will (Simon Bird) has transferred his complete lack of social skills in sixth-form to university, Simon (Joe Thomas) is similarly friendless at uni and Lucy (Tamala Kari), the holiday girlfriend he transferred universities to be closer to, has turned out to be a bit emotionally unstable, Jay (James Buckley) is taking a gap year in Australia and is bullshitting severely to the rest of the group to hide the fact that his life has been a mess ever since Jane dumped him, and Neal (Blake Harrison) is… actually, I have no idea what’s happening with Neal but he hasn’t progressed mentally, if nothing else.  Over Easter break, Will, Simon and Neal decide to surprise Jay by heading over to Australia to see him, where Will bumps into an old junior school friend who may or may not be into him (Emily Berrington), Simon accidentally ends up deeply committed to Lucy, and Jay decides to finally hunt down Jane and try and get her to take him back.

I’m going to get this out of the way first, because it makes a pretty good segway from the prior synopsis, The Inbetweeners 2 isn’t wholly brilliant towards women.  See, in the show, the women that the boys try going after are often depicted as above them for the most part.  Like, yeah, sometimes there are some who just lead the guys on or who aren’t the nicest of people but those are the minority.  The series, for the most part, made the boys the butts of the jokes as their being terrible people screwed up their chances with otherwise good women.  This is why a fair few people were, to put it lightly, mildly disappointed with the characterisation 180 that the first movie did to Carli.  2 continues that trend and ploughs full steam-ahead on it; all of the boys, barring Simon, got dumped between films, Will’s old friend Katie is shown at nearly all-times to be a tease who is leading him on, and Lucy has suddenly turned into an extremely clingy jealous girlfriend who nags at Simon like an old fishwife, obsessively stalks his Facebook, and frequently takes a pair of scissors to his hoodies.

Jane only appears at the very end for about five seconds and is then duly removed from the picture, so that makes the only women featured in the film negative stereotypes that are bad for the boys.  It’s a little bit uncomfortable, especially because the film can’t fully decide if it sympathises with the boys or if it wants to see them suffer because they’re not exactly great people.  The show always seemed to have a lock on how it wanted to treat the boys (realising that they’re terrible people, but still having some compassion for the bond that they share), but this film doesn’t seem completely sure and that makes the treatment of the female characters seem more than a bit accidentally uncomfortable, again especially since the search for Jane drives the entire second half of the movie and her summary dismissal after she has been found reduces her character to simply a MacGuffin for Jay.  I realise that the film’s viewpoint is that of four teenage boys, but, again, the film still can’t quite decide whether it sympathises with them or wants to ride and flog them for all it’s worth.

But, eh, that’s a personal hang-up that most people probably won’t notice or care about.  There are other, more general hang-ups that I imagine other people will share, like how the film quite often over-steps the line of various kinds.  It’s never enough to just have Neil have an upset stomach when at the top of a water slide, he also has to have the shits too, and have the scene end with Will vomiting profusely everywhere (I shan’t divulge how we get there because, right up until the vomiting, it’s actually one of the film’s bigger laughs).  It’s never enough to just have Will awkwardly embarrass himself in front of Katie by trying way too hard, he has to also sing a slow song on guitar in ill-fitting falsetto, with that song running for a whole two minutes and it turning from “cringeworthily funny” to “just plain cringeworthy” after the first minute.  It’s not enough to have Jay’s bullshitting email visualised on-screen in a manner that calls to mind The Wolf Of Wall Street, it has to be done in full, long after the joke stops being funny, and to have the characters lampshade how unnecessarily long it is after the fact.  It’s a problem the first film ran into at points, going too far across lines of grossness, cringe or joke length, and it’s only exacerbated here, likely because it’s a film and, therefore, there was no reason for anyone to drag writer-directors Damon Beesley and Iain Morris away from the type-writers and scold them with a firm “NO!” before they could script a scene in which Jay masturbates in the bed next to Will’s over something I don’t plan on spoiling here because, in an inverse to the water slide bit, the pay-off is absolutely worth the awkward construction.

On that note, the film’s also a bit too long.  I know, I know, it’s only 98 minutes, but the film is still structured like an episode of the show and what’s excellently paced over 22 minutes can drag and feel a bit aimless when stretched out.  The jokes-per-minute ratio is consistent, but it still drags in spots and, at about the 70-odd minute mark, when the film starts getting really good, I was ready for it to be over.  Also, it still can’t quite shake off the feeling that everyone’s only back here for the money.  Very rarely did the film offer up a scene or comedic setpiece that I felt truly justified everybody returning for one last hurrah.  At its best, The Inbetweeners filters its laughs and heart through painful, painful reality and those kinds do appear (in particular, Will’s attempts to appear cool to Katie’s douchebag friends and the brief glimpse we get at his sad, lonely university life hit rather close-to-home for me) but they’re much rarer this time, the film being more content to just showcase Neal’s genitalia (which a dog then licks because, again, nobody seemed to ever say no to anything in this script) than coming up with more of those.

So, having spent all of this time criticising the film, there still remains one set of questions unanswered.  The big ones.  The only ones that most of you care about.  Is The Inbetweeners 2 funny?  Did I laugh?  After all, I have mentioned multiple times before that I am willing to overlook more problematic undertones if the actual comedy on display is funny, to the point where I really should just put my money where my mouth is already.  Well, I’ve made you wait this long, so I’m just going to give it to you straight…

Yes, I laughed a lot at The Inbetweeners 2.

As much as in the first film?  No.  As much as in the show’s best episodes?  Probably, yes, but only because this runs for just over the length of four straight episodes of the show.  I should stress right now that it is not as funny as either the last film or the TV show… but I did laugh, a heck of a lot, more so than at any non-22 Jump Street comedy released so far this year.  Appropriate lip service is paid to the usual Inbetweeners running gags like Neal’s dad possibly being gay, Jay’s seemingly endless euphemisms for sex (played this time as him becoming very insecure after Jane dumped him), seemingly everybody having a crush on Will’s mum (which gets an incredible payoff in the finale that I will not spoil no matter how much you beg) and Neal’s complete and total inability to function in society.  The new stuff, meanwhile, when not overstepping the line, is often excellent and, as previously mentioned, gags come at a very consistently quick pace, for the most part.  The one time that the film slows down is during a scene just before the finale that, to put it bluntly, is like the end of the bit on the pier in Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa but without the gags and lampshade hanging.  And, yes, the reason why I am being very vague regarding the jokes, and why it took me so long to getting around to talking about them, is because I don’t fancy spoiling them.  What else can I say?  If I found a film really funny, I’m not about to go about telling you about the funny jokes when I can just leave you to see the film for yourself to find out, am I?

One other thing the film has going for it is its ending, in that it’s sudden, kind of open, a little bit unsatisfying, leaves none of our characters much better off than when they started, and, quite honestly, is the absolute most perfect send-off for this franchise possible.  Look, not to disparage The Inbetweeners Movie, but its ending basically gave its characters everything they wanted; relative social popularity, happy memories, and girlfriends.  Except that it’s not really what they deserve.  Let’s not forget, these four are all, in their own ways, terrible, selfish people and giving them what they wanted, whilst satisfying for those of us who saw some of ourselves in each of the characters, isn’t really what they deserve and rather contrary to the down-to-earth relatively-realist nature of the show.  Conversely, The Inbetweeners 2 gives the cast what they deserve without coming off as overly-cruel in doing so, it being a nice mixture of disappointment, failure, underwhelming but the realisation that they still have each other over everything else.  Like, hey, the holiday may have been a complete failure, but at least we’re still friends, followed by one last cuing up of the instrumental version of “Gone Up In Flames” by Morning Runner.  That, I feel anyway, is the ending that the series deserves, the one that, in hindsight, it should have delivered the first time, and it nearly manages to justify this last venture.  Not quite, but almost.

So, it’s a bit too long, poorly serves its female cast members, goes too far a bit too often, and can’t quite shake the feeling that this didn’t really need to exist.  It’s not as good as any of the show’s three seasons, and it’s not as good as the first film.  But The Inbetweeners 2 is funny, it’s very funny, its cast is still of a ridiculously high-calibre (not that you needed me to tell you that, they can pretty much play their roles in their sleep by this point) and it provides the perfect send-off to the series as a whole.  For a lot of people, that will be enough.  In a way, it is.  It’s undoubtedly the weakest thing that the UK Inbetweeners have ever put out, but I came away feeling pretty damn satisfied.  It’s good enough.

Just, please, stop now.  Reject any extra money that is dangled in front of your faces and stop now.  While you’re still ahead.

Callum Petch knows that the emperor wears no clothes.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

The Harry Hill Movie

Our friend Callum Petch threw his critical mind into the fray when volunteering to review The Harry Hill Movie, which he describes as “exactly as bad as it looks, though it’s not due to a lack of trying”.

Harry Hill Movie 2Have you ever felt yourself physically age?  Like, have you ever been saddled with a task so monotonous, your mind drifts off elsewhere and it eventually settles on just counting off the minutes until you’re free of whatever you’re doing?  That happens to me quite a fair bit; sometimes due to my being a natural daydreamer but also because I watch a lot of bad movies.  Oftentimes, I don’t have a choice in the matter and such a mind drift only occurs when a film is either too dull or too bad for me to verbally or mentally (if I’m in the cinema, come on, I’m not a dick) insult.  But, when it does happen, it is, for me, the ultimate sign of a film completely failing.  This is why I class The Sweeney (2012) or Keith Lemon: The Film as worse films than The Last Airbender or Branded.  Those last two are incompetently made, ridiculous, poorly-acted, confusing pieces of trash… but they’re entertaining pieces of trash, the kind that I can sit and laugh at or attempt amateur Mystery Science Theatre 3000 sessions with.  The first two are terrible films and they’re boring; a lethal combination.

When watching The Harry Hill Movie, that sense of physically feeling the time slip away from me arrived in full force some 40 minutes, if that, into the movie.  But this time, something was different.  I couldn’t just feel the minutes slipping away into ether.  I could feel every individual second.  Every single one of them, getting away from me, reminding me that I voluntarily chose to spend 2 hours of my life sat in a cinema screen with the intention of watching The Harry Hill Movie.  I sank further and further into my seat.  I got close to dosing off, the first time that would have ever happened to me at a film in the cinema.  And it never felt like it was going to end!  It kept going on and on and on.  I started to fear that it really was going to run forever!  That I had died at some point the night before and had walked into my own circle of Hell; forced to, for all eternity, watch a comedy that’s too boring to insult and is nowhere near as passable as it’s trying to be.

In other words: The Harry Hill Movie sucks balls.

I feel like I should note, however, that it can’t be faulted for trying.  Whereas last year’s similarly awful and unnecessary Keith Lemon: The Film was content to just phone it in for 90 straight bloody minutes with a script that seemed happy to just throw in a bunch of pop culture references (not jokes, references) and celebrity cameos before calling it a night, Harry Hill is trying to be funny.  Specifically, it’s trying to be a live-action cartoon, and even more specifically it’s trying to be a cross between Dick Dastardly/Muttley and Sam Sheepdog/Ralph Wolf.  Harry (himself, kind of, there’s not really much of a fourth wall in this film) and his grandmother (Julie Walters) are on a road trip to Blackpool with Harry’s dying hamster Abu (voiced by Johnny Vegas because, presumably, everybody talented and likable was sick that day), pursued by Harry’s evil twin brother (Matt Lucas) and his incompetent henchmen (one of which is a visibly-desperate-to-make-this-material-work Simon Bird) because Harry’s twin wants to kidnap Abu for… reasons.  Illogical, stupid, Macguffin-based reasons.

It’s silly and out-there yet family-friendly and gives each scene a clear structure.  Unfortunately, that structure is all the film has.  Harry and co. will turn up somewhere, the incompetent henchmen will attempt to kidnap the hamster whilst Harry and his grandmother act completely oblivious to whatever’s going on, the henchmen will fail because they’re incompetent and then it’s off to the next area to do it all again.  It gets old fast because the film almost never switches up that structure and, even when the novelty is there, there are no funny jokes here.

Because, again, The Harry Hill Movie is trying to make people laugh.  There are jokes here, with set-ups and punch-lines of the verbal and physical nature, which is more than I can say for, say, The Hangover Part III.  It’s just that none of them are funny.  Either the timing is off, or the delivery is wrong, or somebody in the film clearly explains the joke when it didn’t need to be explained, or the joke goes on for way, way too long (there’s a section where Abu gets exposed to radioactive waves and a Kaiju parody gets underway… for 4 whole minutes), or the joke wasn’t funny to begin with, or the film uses a pop culture reference as its punch-line and instantly dates itself by two years (when told that he’s going to die, Abu shouts “I can’t die!  I just got a year’s subscription to Netflix!”) or four years (one of the minions’ “impeccable disguises” is a Justin Bieber costume where he talks in a high-pitched falsetto), or it’s delivered by Johnny Vegas, but none of the jokes are funny.  I think I laughed once (when Harry points out a plot hole with regards to the minions) and smirked once (when one of the minions puts scary music on the stereo before attempting to grab Abu).  For a 90 minute comedy, that’s practically a death sentence.

It’s quite mean-spirited at points, too.  In the opening, Harry blows up a family of chickens who are trying to kill him (no, I don’t know why and, quite honestly, my brain feels a lot nicer when it’s not trying to make sense of this film) and throws two eggs to his grandma with the notice that they’ll have those for breakfast.  80% of the interactions between Harry and his gran are him insisting that she has move out from his place and live in a retirement home (the other 20%, because I know you’re curious, is the pair of them acting oblivious in order for Abu’s physical hi-jinks to ensue).  There are some quick easy jokes about dwarfism, priests and nuns getting it on with one another and, and I am not kidding here, inter-species relations.  These moments are rare, but they stick out when they do occur and are endemic of a film with serious identity issues.  It tries to work on all levels for all of the family, but instead of just double-coding a bunch of jokes, it clumsily switches between age groups for targeted gags.  One moment, Abu is projectile vomiting, for the kids; the next he’s being lined up for execution, for the teenagers; the next, Harry’s gran notes that she meant to leave Harry to the wolves instead of his twin because she couldn’t raise two children and “it’s what any sensible granny would do”, for the adults.

The performers don’t do much to elevate the material, either.  Excepting Simon Bird (who is trying really, really, really, really hard to make any bit of his material work), everybody is either sleepwalking, inconsequential or, most damningly, abandoning all subtlety in favour of mugging for the camera as much as is humanly possible.  Hill, in particular, is really bad at this, there are times when he acts more like Kevin Bishop’s impression of Harry Hill than anything resembling a supposedly gifted comic actor.  Matt Lucas makes zero impression as the villain because, well, he doesn’t do anything.  Jim Broadbent cross-dresses to play a cleaning lady because… it’s Jim Broadbent cross-dressing and that’s funny?  Julian Barratt shows up in one of the film’s stupider plot turns and promptly does absolutely nothing.  He doesn’t even sing!  That’s just purposeful wasting of talent, right there!

Oh, one other thing: at points the film decides that it’s going to be a musical.  Not once does a musical number impact on the plot or have a reason for its existence (although there is one number which gets a lampshade thrown on its existence, as if the film thinks that doing so justifies doing the number and, spoiler alert, it doesn’t).  There’s a Les Misérables style ballad (and you know that it’s in the style of Les Misérables because Harry even says so just before it starts) that threatens to turn into a musical equivalent of his infamous “ear cataracts” segment from TV Burp.  None of the songs are funny, unless you’re one of those people who falls out of their chair laughing at the sight of Julie Walters rapping, and the song choices (which are or are not original tracks depending on… reasons, I don’t have an answer, in all honesty) often make no sense.  Matt Lucas sings “Nutbush City Limits” early on for literally no reason at all.  Unless the joke is just “IT’S MATT LUCAS SINGING NUTBUSH CITY LIMITS” which, come to think of it, is likely the case.  There’s only one half-decent song and that’s the one with The Magic Numbers who, in this film, are now running a B&B and a) yes, that is the whole joke and b) I’m just as surprised as you are that they’re still going, let alone that anybody even remembers them enough for this to qualify as a “joke”.

Despite all of my pre-release apprehension, I did not go into The Harry Hill Movie wanting to hate it.  I never go into a film wanting to hate it.  Sometimes I go in expecting to hate a film, but never wanting to hate a film.  What good does that do me?  I might as well light my £8 on fire.  Unfortunately, The Harry Hill Movie did precisely nothing to keep me from hating it.  In addition to a laundry list of other problems (another being that, despite my personal appreciation at the amount of puppetry in this film, Abu never looks cute, just terrifying and creepy), it commits the Comedy Film sin of not being funny and the Bad Movie sin of being too boring to make fun of or get angry at.  I felt every single one of those 5,280 seconds slip by me and I hope to the Maker that I don’t get that feeling again for a long while.

I saw this so you don’t have to.  Stay well clear.

Callum Petch won’t get much closer until he sacrifices it all.  He normally writes about movies at Screened.com (site link).  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and read his gaming column Petchulant over at GameSparked!