“I hate films where people talk to the camera,” says Jamie Blackley’s smartass protag Jack at the outset of “We Are the Freaks.” He’s speaking directly to the camera, of course, setting the tone of winking japery for Justin Edgar’s amusing, appealingly performed and sensibly brief third feature. A teen comedy in the crass but cute vein of TV’s “Skins,” the pic, with its nostalgic 1990 setting, may appeal more to Generation X-ers than current high schoolers, but the randy, drunken hijinks of its skimpy one-wild-night narrative are hardly period-specific. Ancillary-suited result will be a theatrical tweener for U.K. distrib Metrodome.
Centered on a bickering, overstimulated trio of misfit pals approaching adulthood in drab suburban Blighty, Edgar’s film returns him to the thematic territory of his crude 2001 debut, “Large,” but bears the influence of subsequent teen phenomena. In particular, the shadows of hit Brit shows “The Inbetweeners” and “Skins” loom large over “We Are the Freaks”; two of the film’s three leads, Mike Bailey and Sean Teale, are indeed “Skins” alumni. Without any pre-existing platform for these engaging characters, however, it’d be unreasonable to expect even a fraction of the stunning B.O. returns for 2011’s “The Inbetweeners Movie.”
The narrator and initial hub of the film is Jack, an aspiring writer who begins the film with a “Trainspotting”-aping monologue that reels off his many gripes with life, love and a Britain newly released from the Thatcher regime. Having won a spot in a university creative-writing course, our working-class hero hasn’t enough funding to accept it. That’s a problem not shared by his more bourgeois friends Parsons (Bailey), a young Conservative uncertainly railing against his parents’ beige expectations of him, and punkish Chunks (Teale), a spoiled dropout spending his considerable trust fund on fast living.
All three, of course, are equally artless with women, a fact that emerges over the course of a chaotic Saturday evening, as Parsons and Chunks crash the stuffed-shirt party to which Parsons has been dragged by his dreary uber-snob g.f., Clare (a hilarious Rosamund Hanson). From there, the boys part ways on individually riotous wild-goose chases that variously mark the end of their innocence. Lighter on story than on gags — including one wince-worthy instance of genital misfortune — Edgar’s script allows ample room for his young stars to exert their considerable goofball charisma.
Though Philip Arkinstall’s otherwie nippy editing allows one or two dead spots too many for a film with a 75-minute runtime, design and lensing are sharper than you’d expect for a production of this modest magnitude. All the more so when one considers how much of the budget presumably went on clearance costs for the film’s spot-on soundtrack: With tracks from the likes of New Order and the Happy Mondays, it’s arguably the best reason for the largely superfluous period setting.