Following the astonishing $88 million worldwide haul of the 2011 sitcom spinoff “The Inbetweeners Movie” ($71 million of which was grossed in the U.K.), lightning looks ready to strike again with this more consistently funny sequel. Hardly setting the bar for originality with its fish-out-of-water antics, and even more reliant on nudity and bodily fluids for the big comic setpieces, “The Inbetweeners 2” happily dissolves such lofty concerns in giddy gales of hilarity. Pic should score again wherever fans lurk, notably in Blighty and the Antipodes, with pockets in Germany, Italy and across Europe, scoring rich profits for U.K. broadcaster Channel 4.
Squarely aimed at the millions who are already familiar with these characters, the story picks up six months or so after the events of the first film, with Simon (Joe Thomas) and the genially gormless Neil (Blake Harrison) visiting self-sabotaging geek Will (Simon Bird) at Bristol U. It’s readily apparent that Will is having as much trouble fitting in there as he did in high school, while Simon has woes of his own, thanks to the uber-clingy g.f. (Tamla Kari) he inherited from his summer adventure in Crete. Even allowing for his tendency to exaggerate, it appears that wild fantasist Jay (James Buckley) is having a much more congenial time during his gap year in Australia. As Jay so charmingly puts it, what with waking up to oral gratification from a different local beauty every morning, he hasn’t had to wash his penis in ages.
Taking advantage of the long spring break offered by English universities, Simon, Neil and Will head for Oz, surprising Jay at the nightclub where he works — in the men’s restroom, as it turns out, not the DJ booth. With Jay’s accommodations likewise falling far short of what they’d been led to expect — and Will having collided promisingly with pretty traveler Katie (Emily Berrington), whom he knew at elementary school — the wheels are set in motion for fresh adventures in Byron Bay, New South Wales.
Like most successful teen comedies, “The Inbetweeners” works by balancing its lascivious nonsense with a disarming sweetness (in Jay’s case, through a backstory of reprehensible, confidence-sapping parenting), and nobody is more of a target for humiliation than the boys themselves. All four actors go beyond the call of duty this time around, as genitals get licked by a dog; a drop of urine proves insufficient in quenching a desert thirst; and, most memorably, a stray log of human excrement provokes mass terror at a water park. Thanks to the ingenuity of the setups and the flair of the execution, such go-for-broke gross-out tactics work like gangbusters.
The film’s central conflict develops between Will and handsome, conceited tourist Ben (Freddie Stroma) in a battle for Kate’s attention, while tensions between the boys inevitably arise. These are handled more adroitly than they were in the first film, emerging more organically from character and situation. The Byron Bay segment climaxes with Will, separated from the other three, telling his new, fake friends some home truths about their risible pretensions; for all the protagonists’ lamentable idiocies, audience sympathies are never in doubt.
Credited as screenwriters and executive producers on the first film, Damon Beesley and Iain Morris make a smoothly confident transition into directing here, handling the comedy beats skillfully and extracting some widescreen cinematic scale from the Aussie locations. While the investors presumably didn’t bet the farm, it’s reasonable to surmise that the budget was bigger this time around, given the vast anticipated revenue. All principal parties have said that, with the characters transitioning into young men, and the actors themselves now falling between ages 26 and 30, there are no more “Inbetweeners” stories left to tell. It will be the first task of Film 4’s new boss, David Kosse, arriving this fall from Universal Intl., to convince the brand’s creators that this need not be the case.