Every once in a while a movie that looks stupid will surprise you. And boy, did Sex Drive look stupid! But as you can guess, it surprised me with how good it is. It forgoes the sentimental bromance of current comedy for your more typical road trip formula, but still manages to be fresh, funny, and most importantly, fun. The tale of Ian hunting down internet poon in his douchey brother’s “borrowed” GTO Judge, with sleazy pal Lance and “Girl Friday” Felicia in tow sees them in the expected crazy adventures, but the laughs keep it from being stale.
Ian (Josh Zuckerman, Feast) is that endangered species known as the high school virgin. His older brother Rex torments him endlessly; James Marsden actually out-Chets Bill Paxton, who perfected this type of character in Weird Science (full review). Ian spends most of his time chatting online with “Ms. Tasty,” who lures him out to Knoxville to lose his virginity. His job is humiliating- he dresses up as a donut and walks around the mall, where kids glue dildos to his costume. It one-ups the pirate outfit Judge Rheinhold had to wear in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but the comparison ends there; this is more of a raunchy teen comedy.
Ian’s best friend is Lance, the super-cad who looks like a young Dwight Schrute, but knows how to bed the babes; he’s the jerk all the girls fall for. Ian’s the “nice guy” who’s been just friends with Felicia (Amanda Crew) for years, but can’t seem to pull the trigger. He’s too shy, she’s too cool. Sure, you know they’re gonna end up together from scene one, but the script manages to distract you from its formula with plenty of good character chemistry and gags. Once they hit the road, telling Felicia that Ian is visiting his dying grandmother- the fun starts.
They stop at a carnival, where Ian hits it off with a girl- and gets dragged into her Abstinence celebration. Lance finds a more willing partner who chains him to her bed in her parents’ doublewide. The car breaks down and they get help from sarcastic Amish brother Ezekiel (Seth Green in a great cameo). They learn the Amish rite of Rumspringa, which sure seems a lot more like Spring Break than I remember from the documentary I saw, but it’s more fun that way. Of course they get hauled off to jail, they have run-ins with crazy boyfriends, rock stars and road weirdos. Sometimes it veers toward skit comedy, but pulls away just in time.
The three kids are relative newcomers, but all do a fine job- even though James Marsden and Seth Green steal all their scenes. The vets wisely keep a lid on things so we’re not wishing they came along for the rest of the road trip. Sean Anders (of the uber quirky Never Been Thawed) wrote and directed, and Sex Drive isn’t quite as polished or perfect as it could be. Some jokes fall flat, but most work, and this is no cheap cash-in on Superbad‘s raging success, it’s a charming yet raunchy teen comedy more akin to American Pie, but a little sharper. I think it’s definitely worth a rental, and maybe even a purchase.