Friday 19 August 2011

As seen on TV: "The Inbetweeners Movie" and "Glee 3D" (ST 21/08/11)

The Inbetweeners Movie (15) 96 mins **
Glee: The 3D Concert Movie (PG) 84 mins ****

The cinema is dead; all hail synergy, the spin-off and the tie-in. This summer has already owed much to comic books and children’s toys: there now follow the TV derivatives. Iain Morris and Damon Beesley’s E4 series The Inbetweeners savvily transposed American Pie-style teen humiliations onto Middle England, eventually crossing over to become one of C4’s few recent comedy successes. As a reward, The Inbetweeners Movie duly dispatches its leads – dim, dimmer, dimmest and their nerdy narrator pal – to the Mediterranean, in the process upholding those clichés about pasty-faced Englishmen abroad, and about cheap-and-cheerful Britcom cash-ins that insist on sending their characters overseas. Comedically, we’re only just downwind from the Costa Plonka of the Are You Being Served? film.

You can guess the jokes: a little gay panic, many bodily fluids (and solids), and a, let’s say, varyingly gallant approach to the female form. A certain scruffy sincerity – the vaguest glimmer of hard-gained wisdom about adolescent confusions and obsessions – elevates the writing above grim memories of Harry Enfield’s Kevin and Perry Go Large, and the likable cast maintain some well-honed comic rhythms. Would that the whole did likewise, though: under Ben Palmer’s direction, it instead staggers its way between seasons, never quite doing enough to disabuse the casual viewer of the notion they’re watching a feature-length special, not a movie – one whose ideal delivery system isn’t the multiplex, but the set-top box.

The Glee movie, meanwhile, reprises that show’s greatest hits as a live stage act, mercifully without the Autotuned vocals, but with ample evidence these are now the hardest working kids in the business: talented performers making hours of choreography look like immense, infectious fun. The 3D’s wholly unnecessary: fans will feel close enough to these characters already. Pop is the point here: as interspersed testimony from real-life Gleeks suggests, the series’ four-minute wonders have become protective bubbles within which labels cease to matter, folk in wheelchairs enact “The Safety Dance”, and “River Deep, Mountain High” can be reclaimed as the Billboard chart-topper it always should have been. An effervescent expression of joy through song, it may just be the happiest experience this particular grouch has had in a cinema all year.

The Inbetweeners Movie and Glee: The 3D Concert Movie are in cinemas nationwide.

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