Review – ‘The Festival’ is Inbetweeners in a field, and I’m fine with that

Poster for 2018 British comedy The Festival

Genre: Comedy
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 17th August 2018
Runtime: 98 minutes
Director: Iain Morris
Writer: Keith Akushie, Joe Parham
Starring: Joe Thomas, Hannah Tointon, Hammed Animashaun, Claudia O’Doherty, Hugh Coles, Kurt Yaeger, Jemaine Clement, Emma Rigby, Nick Frost, Noel Fielding, Theo Barklem-Biggs, Lizzy Connolly
Synopsis: Just weeks after losing his girlfriend at graduation, a socially awkward young guy tries to have fun at a summer music festival, until his ex shows up.

 

 

A decade ago, a foul-mouthed whirlwind of teenage angst hit British TV screens as Iain Morris and Damon Beesley brought The Inbetweeners into the world. For me, and almost everybody else of my age, the show remains a touchstone and a pure, unadulterated depiction of what it meant to be a teenager in Britain in the noughties – mainly thinking the Crazy Frog was cool and going on caravan holidays. Four years after we said goodbye to those characters for the last time in The Inbetweeners 2, Morris is in the director’s chair for a film in which Inbetweeners star Joe Thomas plays a down on his luck everyman tossed into an awkward social scenario enlivened by jokes about sex, shit and snorting lines. So far, so familiar.

The protagonist is Nick – although he may as well be called Simon – and we meet him engaged in pre-graduation coitus with Hannah Tointon‘s Caitlin – although she may as well be called Tara. Their pre-graduation shag becomes a mid-graduation row and a post-graduation break-up, with Nick spending much of the summer alone in his bedroom. Best friend Shane (Hammed Animashaun) is having none of Nick’s self-pity, though, and convinces him to follow through with their plans to attend a summer music festival. The catch is that Caitlin and her pompous friend Rex (Hugh Coles) organised the tickets, so they’re bound to bump into each other at some point.

There’s nothing particularly surprising about The Festival, particularly for seasoned veterans of The Inbetweeners and its world of “clunge” and “bus wankers”. However, just like the show that made Morris famous, this film is incredibly funny, painting a wall-to-wall comedy collage made up of bodily fluids and cringe-inducing physical comedy from Thomas – a man who, rather admirably, has no issue baring all in the name of earning a chuckle from the audience. He may not be straining any character muscles, but he knows exactly how to deliver a punchline and fits into the everyman role as well as he has ever done.

It’s not all on Thomas’s shoulders, though, as this is an ensemble piece in the best way. Animashaun’s joyful Shane is terrific as an optimistic counterpoint to his friend’s weary beyond his years cynicism and Jemaine Clement as Shane’s overly emotional stepdad adds a welcome blast of Kiwi weirdness – most notably with an awkward five-point turn in a cul-de-sac. The comic standout, though, is Aussie comedian Claudia O’Doherty as a seasoned festival goer who enjoys flying solo, meeting people on the way and presenting them with ‘Chafney’ – a homemade festival snack of unspecified ingredients that is either delicious or disgusting depending on perspective, and level of seafood allergy. She’s alive with comic energy and genuinely likeable in the sort of pure way that so few characters in this world actually are.

The Festival also benefits from a script constructed around a series of skits, anchored by reliable comic stalwarts like Nick Frost and Noel Fielding. It’s in these skits that the script, written by TV veterans Keith Akushie and Joe Parham, takes the opportunity to empty its magazine of joke bullets in a hail of rapid-fire laughs. The movie is on far shakier foundations when it comes to the emotional side of proceedings and these slow the momentum between gags. Fortunately, though, you’re never more than a minute away from the next killer one-liner or precision-tooled crass set piece. There’s even a late in the day fantasy sequence that plays as a Smurf-based homage to the end of La La Land.

But despite all of its uneven approach to tone, The Festival succeeds in its primary goal of being as funny as possible. Thomas is a reliable and committed presence in the leading role, surrounded by a collection of well-observed archetypes and characters that will be familiar to anyone who has ever spent a weekend drinking over-priced booze at a campsite that stinks of piss, while occasionally watching a band you’ve never heard of perform for half an hour. It’s not the Inbetweeners reunion that many of us crave, but The Festival is about as close to that as it’s possible to get.

 

Pop or Poop?

Rating: Pop!

The limitless comedic potential of Joe Thomas and his fearless approach to laughs is tapped once again by Inbetweeners vet Iain Morris in The Festival. It’s a witty and well-observed look at the ludicrous realities of attending an event like this, kept moving by a handful of the lewd set pieces for which this filmmaker has become known over the years. A colourful selection of supporting characters proves to be the icing on this comedy cake – a cake that’s almost certainly full of something disgusting that you don’t want in your mouth.

 

Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

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