Working class, Newcastle-born Bob Ferris (Rodney Bewes) and Terry Collier (James Bolam) have been friends since childhood, but are finding that times are moving on even if they don't like the idea of settling down. When the street where they used to live is demolished, they begin to have a mid-life crisis of sorts as Bob has to face life with his wife, the formidable Thelma (Brigit Forsyth), and recently divorced Terry acquires a new girlfriend (Mary Tamm).
"Hello Thelma. Pet." The Likely Lads were created by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais for their sixties sitcom, but this grittier film is based on their seventies TV revival, the classic Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? At this time, it seemed as if the only thing propping up the British film industry were feature-length versions of popular sitcoms, but while most of these adaptations haven't aged well (assuming they were actually any good in the first place), The Likely Lads emerges as the best of them, sustaining the melancholy humour and finely drawn characters of the original.
Bewes and Bolam are an excellent team, with the aspirational, pretentious Bob frequently being brought down to earth by wounded cynic Terry. They are both nostalgic for their childhoods and years as hard drinking, bird-chasing blokes, and find it difficult to admit they're starting to get on a bit. The mundanity of the modern world gets them down, and they spend their lives either at work, in the pub or in the supermarket.
So they do what happens so often in sitcom movies - they go on holiday (see also Please Sir, Are You Being Served? and the legendary Holiday on the Buses). But this is the great British caravan holiday; it's dull, rainy, boring and generally miserable, summed up by the scene where one night, Terry takes a piss on the side of the caravan and everyone inside can hear it. It's no surprise they'd prefer to be at home.
The jokes are surprisingly good: "I'd offer you a beer, but I've only got six cans", "She's not as pretty as the last one", and even the coarsening of the humour, such as more frank sexual talk and mild swearing ("I couldn't give a shit!"), doesn't seem too out of place. Unfortunately there isn't really enough plot to last the full ninety minutes, and the ending resolves itself into a letdown of a trouserless bedroom farce. But those characters are as great as they were on television, and the downbeat comedy still works like a charm. Music by Mike Hugg (but doesn't include the memorable theme tune of the series).