Next week sees the release of The Inbetweeners Movie. From its humble beginnings on E4 the series moved from strength to strength, acquiring a cult audience of teens, before word of mouth catapulted it into one of the most talked about and quoted comedies of the past decade and worthy enough to have a big screen outing. The series in no small part became a success thanks to some of the quickest, sharpest writing seen on a sitcom, a superb soundtrack and the quality of the actors and how they really took hold of their characters and let them grow organically throughout the series. Like me, a whole generation of teenagers embraced the show and praised the realistic characters and situations while other sitcoms would gloss over all the real life elements and have the protagonist be generally moody and smug. It is the failure of the characters in The Inbetweeners and this pathos that helped make the series so innovative and likable and garnered this cult of fans. I was surprised at first hearing of the release of a movie though, especially since I thought the final few episodes of the series were slightly repetitive and lacklustre. However, I was intrigued, wondering how successful the movie could become.
Over the years there have been an array of British TV comedies that have tried their hand at making a film. In the 1970s we had successful long running sitcoms such as Dad’s Army and Porridge being turned into films. This then went on to movie versions of Are You Being Served and Allo Allo before moving into Ali G Indahouse and Kevin and Perry Go Large territory. The problem is with most of these, although funny enough just seem like longer TV shows as opposed to a movie. However, it seems you can’t win with the critics who herald these films one long episode because when The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse completely changed from its series format, giving the lead parts to more bit part players in the series and having some clever, post-modern plot where the creations met their creations it was met with further criticism that they wanted more of the series.
The most successful British comedy transition is arguably Spaced to Shaun of the Dead. And although it doesn’t share the same characters or story, the fact that it came from a scene in the Spaced Episode ‘Art’, the direction of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s acting meant that the two were connected. Usually it takes such drastic changes to make it cinematic; it took some of the best elements from Spaced including the inundation of pop culture references and the movie like cinematography and sound effects and then incorporated different genres and established actors with a strong narrative and script to make it stand alone. Bean was also a success story, moving the character far away from the comfort zone of the television series proved well. It didn’t work as well though in the sequel Mr Bean’s Holiday.
What surprised me first reading about The Inbetweeners movie was the choice that they decided to put the character’s on holiday, as over the years when doing a big screen spin off, including in On The Buses, Are You Being Served and Kevin and Perry Go Large it’s a common thing and therefore seems like it’s been done before. There is also the fact that with the Hangover 2 this year we have already seen one gross-out holiday based comedy. However, as the characters are at that age where lads holidays are the norms it does seem the ideal place for comedic set pieces and incident, so as long as they put their stamp on it hopefully it will give something different.
What the film must be careful of though is that the cinema is such a different medium than the television. First of all, rather than a 22 minute episode where there’s a single situation, there needs to be an overriding narrative to the story so that it doesn’t look like a series of sketches, which the trailer kind of does at the moment. Also, it’s usually the case that films gather an audience that would not have seen the television show and are coming into it cold. This is always difficult for writers sometimes because they have to keep the material fresh but reintroduce characters that fans have been acquainted with for years which could be tedious and patronising for the fans who feel the movie should be for them. If previous television to film transitions are anything to go by then The Inbetweeners has a very difficult job of keeping everybody happy. Some want an extended episode with loads of gross out set-piece and wouldn’t mind the lack of narrative while some would want a standalone film with a narrative and characters that could stand on their own two feet. The trick is to combine these things and I believe if any set of writers could do this it would be Damon Beesly and Iain Morris so I am confident.
Although many former TV shows have bombed at the box-office and some have just been terrible as if somebody has forgotten to write the jokes I am confident that with the elements that made The Inbetweeners such a success of TV will translate to the big screen. With a solid script and plenty of jokes and gross out moments I don’t see why it couldn’t be a hit in the cinema and be a fitting ending for one of the best, current comedies. Even if it is not critically acclaimed or a financial success I am sure it will still acquire a cult audience of people who were there from it at the beginning.