All guys want to be like John Cusack
Director: Sean Anders
Notable Cast: Josh Zuckerman, Amanda Crew, Clark Duke, James Marsden, Seth Green
Teen comedies have their flaws, be it catering to a specific demographic or appearing dated to today’s audience. Most involve nerds or guys with self-esteem issues — feeling like the last American virgin at times. The comedies can be raunchy (Porky’s) or sentimental (Say Anything…), or a little bit of both (The Girl Next Door). Those that fall in between seem to be the toughest to promote. And because of this, these in-betweeners can’t find an audience in an already crowded theater market; yet they perform well on home video because of word-of-mouth.
The newest teen comedy, Sex Drive, is 50-50 when it comes to crude humor and emotional substance. The story is no big surprise: Ian (Josh Zuckerman) is an 18-year-old high school senior, living in Chicago, who hasn’t done the “deed.” He’s been chatting with a girl online whose username is Ms. Tasty. She lives in Knoxville, Tenn. Thanks to Photoshop, he make-believes himself a football jock, ripped with muscles. Such an impression, Ian, sadly, is a loser. His older brother Rex (James Marsden) gives him grief that he hasn’t had a girlfriend, and constantly belittles him with gay jokes and suggestions that he’s homosexual. As Ian works his summer McJob (where he dresses up as a donut), girls pay him no mind. Everything changes, though, the day Ms. Tasty sends him a message to meet her in Knoxville of what is sure to be a devirginating experience.
Going along with Ian on the nine-hour trip to Tennessee are his two best friends, Lance (Clark Duke) and Felicia (Amanda Crew). So it’s two guys and a girl revving down the highway in Rex’s 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge. What happens next is a road trip with hijinks galore — some painstakingly funny, others just plain gross — that becomes serious when Ian has to make a soul-searching decision.
Sex Drive may not have the most original story, but its heart is in the right place. The early stuff with Ian typing his instant messages to Ms. Tasty, stopping and deleting what he wants to communicate, is a smart touch, as Ian struggles to find the right words to not sound desperate. Even better is his friend Lance and the way he’s able to “close the deal” with the ladies. It makes for an interesting friendship: two guys who are nerdish in stature, but one can homer and his best friend can’t even get on base.
On a road trip anything can happen. You never know whom you’ll meet or what kind of shenanigans will take place. This road trip is no different. From Lance tending to a teary-eyed gas station clerk, or the hapless friends interacting with the Amish during the rite of passage Rumspringa, while Seth Green (yes, him) and his crew repair the GTO. And I can’t leave out the finale, which is built up over the first two acts, and what we’re left with: simply one of the funniest and insane endings of the year.
Within the first few minutes of Sex Drive, you already know how it will end. But where the comedy succeeds is how it goes about getting there. The story structure is sound, similar to the first Harold & Kumar comedy, in which their trip to White Castle encounters one detour after another. Director Sean Anders uses Andy Behrens’s novel All the Way (which Sex Drive is adapted from) as a starting off point, and he and co-writer John Morris go off from there, changing up Behrens’s narrative to suit their needs. Like replacing Granny’s Oldsmobile with a ’69 GTO and having Ian’s destination be Knoxville instead of Charleston, South Carolina.
The only distracting part of this teen comedy is that it is almost too raunchy. Some of the situations are a bit much, even for a movie geared towards teenagers. Seeing an old man with his ball sack hanging out. Um, no thank you. There’s even a joke that will conjure up images of the airport bathroom incident involving U.S. senator Larry Craig.
But even with situations such as these and the foul-mouthed humor, filled with I don’t know how many offensive gay remarks, the characters and the substance make this any easy recommendation. Part of the charm is having relative unknowns as the three teens – it’s like seeing the Brat Pack reporting to detention one Saturday morning. That’s what Sex Drive feels like, a John Hughes comedy but with the raunchy sex humor we’ve come to expect from the Judd Apatow and Kevin Smith.
If you only see one sex comedy this year, make it Forgetting Sarah Marshall. But if you see two, see Sex Drive.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):
Tags: James Marsden, John Hughes, Judd Apatow, Kevin Smith, Say Anything, Seth Green, Sex Drive