No doubt it would help to have watched — and more crucially be fans of — the hit British TV sitcom that inspires the film “The Inbetweeners.” The series ran from 2008 to 2010, developed a cult following and has now evolved into this feature that ranked an astonishing No. 3 at the U.K. box office last year.
Some critics around me at the press screening did chuckle and guffaw, but I found myself staring at the screen in profound boredom. You’ve seen all this teenage male awkwardness, sexual misadventures and body fluids in so damn many American movies that British accents don’t make them any fresher.
Indeed the only sustaining joke of the entire movie is the spectacular social ineptitude of a quartet of hapless lads. Since the American youth market has a seemingly bottomless appetite for rude R-rated comedies, “The Inbetweeners” may perform well here despite its complete unoriginality.
Since the actors are too long in the tooth to continue playing secondary students at the fictional suburban Rudge Park Comprehensive, the movie lets them graduate and experience a post-grad holiday at a notorious Mediterranean youth vacation spot in Malia, Crete.
Needless to say, everything goes wrong from their hotel selection, rooming situation, choices of bars and, most disastrously, cruising for girls wearing T-shirts labeled “Pussay Patrol.”
(What girl wouldn’t go for that, right?)
Also, needless to say, at movie’s end they find an implausible degree of success with girls in spite of themselves. This is largely because the show’s creator and writers, Damon Beesley and Iain Morris, are on their side.
After an intro involving parents and graduation that would probably be funnier for those familiar with the TV show, the lads land in Crete, encounter an impossibly bad hotel, then meet four English girls they might pair up with if only fate and social manners were in their playbooks.
Will (Simon Bird) is the film’s principal character and perhaps the smartest (which is saying very little). He is unfortunately prone to poor decision-making and saying wrong things much too frequently. He falls for a real hottie in Alison (Laura Haddock), who actually finds his ineptitude somewhat chiming. Alas, a Greek waiter has captured her heart.
On the eve of departure, Simon (Joe Thomas) is dumped by his girlfriend (Emily Head). He’s so heartbroken he can’t see the considerable charms of Lisa (Tamla Kari, pictured below), a girl who unaccountably likes him. It doesn’t help that his ex turns up in Malia as well.
Jay (James Buckley), a devotee of Internet porn, seemingly gains no knowledge from his viewing habits as the real thing throws him for a loop. He also is in denial of his attraction to the sweet and fun-loving Jane (Lydia Rose Bewley) due to her size.
Neil (Blake Harrison), the lankiest and most dim-witted of the four, finds himself a target of all the cougars on the island. He plays along, which actually means he’s the only one to chalk up any success with the opposite sex, if these encounters can be called that.
No need to list the string of embarrassments and failures all encounter. What the film, indifferently directed with little sense of pace by series vet Ben Palmer, is about is male friendship — the quarrels, compromises and conflicts these bring — and how such ties ultimately bind.
Were their blunders a little less stupid and ineptitude not so exaggerated, you might even root for these friendships. As it is, you can’t help speculating how much better off each one would be without such poor companionship.
In the end, the girls in this film despite being superficially drawn look like much more fun.
Opens: September 7, 2012 (Wrekin Hills Entertainment)
Production companies: Bwark Productions, Film4, Young Films
Cast: Simon Bird, James Buckley, Joe Thomas, Blake Harrison, Lydia Rose Bewley, Laura Haddock, Jessica Knappett, Tamia Kari, Emily Head, Belinda Stewart-Wilson
Director: Ben Palmer
Screenwriters: Iain Morris, Damon Beesley
Producer: Christopher Young
Executive producers: Iain Morris, Damon Beesley, Caroline Leddy
Director of photography: Ben Wheeler
Production designer: Dick Lunn
Music: Mike Skinner
Costume designer: Rosa Dias
Editors: William Webb, Charlie Fawcett
R rating, 96 minutes