Inbetweeners 2: the law of diminishing returns

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Let’s clear one thing up from the start. Filmmaking and storytelling is hard and one of the hardest of the lot is comedy. When the Inbetweeners first aired as a TV show it made waves. The comedy was well observed, the characters were brilliant and the interplay between the four main actors was the show’s secret weapon.

A film version was a gamble, but a calculated one. And it paid off massively. So… a sequel was inevitable. The trouble is, many would argue that this sort of quick fire, gross out comedy is best in short doses. Over the length of a film (even a short one) it doesn’t hold up. Well the first film proved it can work… just about.

But what of the sequel?

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Well, it has its moments. For the first film Will (Simon Bird), Simon (Joe Thomas), Jay (James Buckley) and Neil (Blake Harrison) went on a lad’s holiday to Malia. This time round they cross off the next rite of passage and attempt to do a ‘gap yah’ and go travelling.

A sequel is no easy thing in comedy. If your first film is a hit then the pressure is on. Audiences want more of the same but also fresh laughs, new gags – all that jazz. To be fair to the writer-directors Damon Beesley and Iain Morris they do try and deliver on both fronts.

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Like the first one, Will quickly befriends a ridiculously pretty English girl (Laura Haddock in the original, Emily Berrington here – the latter most recently seen in 24: Live Another Day). She’s out his league and he fails to realise it (or fit in) with the traveller way of life.

The story loosely revolves around Jay wanting to go in search of his ex-girlfriend from the first film who’s somewhere in the outback. This leads the lads to Byron bay and a water park (as Will pursues his love interest), then into the wilderness (as Jay pursues his).

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It’s clear the four leads haven’t lost the chemistry they had in the TV show and the first film, and some of the gags and set pieces go down a treat (look out for an excruciating song round a campfire), but there definitely feels as if there’s been a loss of momentum. Some of the comedy feels forced and the story isn’t perhaps as strong or focused as the first film.

Some of the quieter moments where the lads cut the banter and allow some drama to seep in work really well and help contrast the comedy. Had there been more of this it would have made the story much stronger, as you really do feel for their characters as there’s an inherent sweetness to them (yes, even when they’re puking and shitting everywhere).

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It perhaps just feels like the writers have had the world grow up around them, but kept the lads stuck in an adolescent timewarp. Or maybe they’ve just taken these characters as far as they can go. Either way, it was a solid sequel, but it’s time to call time on these loveable briefcase wankers.

May they grow up (or not) in peace.

 

Misfits series 4: First episode review

I got introduced to Misfits a few months ago, loved it and blasted my way through the first two series. For those not in the know, it’s a science fiction comedy drama about a group of young offenders sentenced to community service. On their first day of work they get hit by lightning from a strange storm which gifts them supernatural powers.

A huge appeal of the show on release was how well written the main characters were and the overall tone. Dialogue was realistic, gritty, funny and very sharp. The plot was often very dark, balancing some great dramatic scenes with almost comedy horror at times.

In the first two series it achieved a perfect combination of a brilliant script and story arc, coupled with great chemistry between the actors playing the main characters. Indeed, the first series won a BAFTA for Best Drama in 2010. If you’ve missed it thus far, I urge you to go out and get the box-set to catch up. If you’d like a quick overview of the plot for each series to date, check that out here.

Back to basics…
I have a confession to make, I’ve yet to see series three. I loved the first two but have yet to see the third. With this kind of show I don’t think that’s a problem. Whilst some characters have continued from the third series, enough has changed for the fourth to be seen as a fresh start.

New characters Jess and Finn have been introduced and three characters (Alicia, Simon and Kelly) have left. The new group have another new probation worker (the life span of probation workers in this show is somewhat limited).

Key to the appeal of the show was the balance of the darker, horrific story elements with sharp comedy. In the original series actor Robert Sheehan – who played Nathan – was truly exceptional at getting this right. An incredibly talented actor. Check out some of his best bits here. A major spoiler if you’ve not seen the show, be warned!

New faces
Stepping into his shoes as the comic relief in the third series was actor Joseph Gilgun (who plays Rudy). Some of you will know him as Woody in This is England. Gilgun was well cast, but he was always going to struggle taking over from Sheehan, an actor who really made the comic relief aspect of the show his own and defined the first two series.

Gilgun’s character remains in this fourth series and seems to be taking a more central role as leader of the group. From what I gather he was perhaps not as dominant in series three, but will grow in influence in the current series. I’ve always been a fan and think casting him helped refresh and progress the show from the shadow of Sheehan, who arguably dominated the first two series at the expense of other characters.

For this new series I liked the introduction of Jess (played by excellently named actress Karla Crome) – she reminded me a little of a blend between characters Alicia and Kelly – smart, sassy and intelligent. Although we’ll have to see how she develops as the episodes progress.

Finn (actor Nathan Mcmullen) was a bit of a mystery to me. Not instantly engaging as a character. He sort of sat between being dark and comic, like a diet coke version of Rudy. That said, there was a small scene near the end of the episode that suggests his character may have a darker side and the possibility of an interesting back-story developing.

For me, it’s nice to have this show back. I’d forgotten how much I liked the concept, the tone and the sharp dialogue. I look forward to this current series. If you haven’t seen the first episode of this new series you can watch it here. Or get a taster with the episode trailer below.