The Inbetweeners, the Channel 4 hit sitcom about a ragtag group of loveably crude schoolboys, very much captured the zeitgeist. So much so, it has become a rite of passage for each generation since it hit the small screen, much to parents’ dismay. The series spawned two movies, both majorly successful in their own right, earning reasonable reviews and decent box office takings. The man behind such cherished phrases like “bumder” and “bus wankers”, Iain Morris, has been fairly quiet the past few years though. He’s now reunited with former Inbetweener Joe Thomas and headlining the tail end of the summer film roster with The Festival, a humorous if detrimentally familiar little romp.
After Nick (Joe Thomas) breaks up with his girlfriend and has a sizeably embarrassing breakdown at his university graduation, his best friend Shane (Hammed Animashaun) drags him out of his rut to one of the biggest music festivals of the year. The love-sick blues are not aided by peppy, uber-friendly festival goer Amy (Claudia O’Docherty), nor is bumping into his uni ‘friends’ including his ex, or the extreme conditions at an event like this, which he does not consider fun.
Thomas, whose most recent commendable work was in the underrated White Gold (also a Morris product), loses his amusing charm here. He’s essentially playing a more selfish, uptight version of his more famous character, Simon. While initially he has some pretty funny moments, such as the opening sex scene which ends up ruining his gown (alongside ex-Inbetweener ex-girlfriend, Hannah Tointon), he quickly becomes an annoying presence, a narrative tool essential for moving the film forward but unessential for any form of fulfillment. Morris makes very predictable plays for his character, resulting in stale, contrived development. Project X wasn’t a perfect movie, but we believed the plight of our main ‘hero’ and his ascent into party infamy. Nick is a bore who has an epiphany – that’s not good writing. The script overall is lacking, nowhere near as keenly observed as Morris’ famed sitcom.
One of the huge, glaring flaws with The Festival, particularly as a fan, is it’s essentially the exact same film as The Inbetweeners Movie, but set against a British summer backdrop. Nick breaks up with his girlfriend, goes somewhere to get over her, ends up meeting her there, and decides that this’ll be his quest to get back together with her – just like Simon. But unlike its predecessor, The Festival doesn’t have three seasons of television to build up the audience’s relationship with its main character, so Nick feels like some sort of imposter, a copycat if you will, without all the quirks we expect.
He joins a cast which are stuffed with unlikeable characters who are fed the odd redeeming line or plot-point, but for the most part are caricatures of festival stereotypes, from the obnoxious outsider who gets with the girls (again, like The Inbetweeners Movie), to the stuck-up glampers, to the drugged-up idiots who pee on your head. It gets to the point where someone who is written as being an aggravating character ends up turning into the best thing about the film. O’Docherty’s Amy is like a wildfire, “exciting, but you wouldn’t want it near your house”, boisterous, enthusiastic and looking for pals. She is smartly given her own side plot, alongside Animashaun’s Shane (also a fantastic contribution, immediately likeable), where they go off getting to know each other, and run into some pretty strange sights involving goats. They say it’ll probably make a great anecdote one day, but they’ll add it to the 12 other things they’re carrying to their grave. Their misadventures are funny and freshly written; new hilariously wacky situations that lend the film weight to being more than an Inbetweeners follow up.
But aside from a few cracking cameos from Nick Frost and Noel Fielding, the film never soars to achieve the uproarious laughter it should. It often descends into music video-esque montages and overlong set pieces that get awkward fast. The cycle of Nick may feel unearned, but the closing sequence at least brings the trio together, and ties up any loose ends in the process. But, like a music festival you weren’t that bothered about going to in the first place, you’d be better off watching the highlights.
Watchable, but unforgivably derivative – was it not a bit early to have a remake of The Inbetweeners Movie?
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Directed by: Iain Morris
Cast: Joe Thomas, Hammed Animashaun, Claudia O’Doherty