Josh Zuckerman as Ian
Amanda Crew as Felicia
Clark Duke as Lance
James Marsden as Rex
Seth Green as Ezekiel
Alice Greczyn as Mary
Katrina Bowden as Ms. Tasty
Charlie McDermott as Andy
Mark L. Young as Randy
Cole Petersen as Dylan
Dave Sheridan as Bobby Jo
Michael Cudlitz as Rick
Allison Weissman as Becca
Andrea Anders as Brandy
Kim Ostrenko as Ian’s Stepmom
Directed by Sean Anders
As raunchy as you’d expect from an R-rated teen sex comedy, but surprisingly clever and even sweet at times, “Sex Drive” is a refreshing addition to the genre.
18-year-old Ian (Josh Zuckerman) is still a virgin but when he gets an offer of sex from a girl he meets on the internet, he steals his brother Rex’s ’69 GTO and drives down to Knoxville along with his smooth-talking friend Lance (Clark Duke) and childhood crush Felicia (Amanda Crew) to try and hook up, running into all sorts of strange characters and problems along the way.
Who knows where we’d be today if filmmakers never realized how funny and awkward it was to be a virgin trying to have sex for the first time? Certainly, there would have never been an “Animal House” or a “Porky’s” or an “American Pie.” Maybe if there were movies at the start of time, someone would even have made a comedy about Adam trying to hook up with Eve for the first time. The fact that “Sex Drive” is treading such familiar territory may be its biggest hurdle, because it sets itself up for certain (possibly lowered) expectations, since so many good movies have come before it and one wonders what more could possibly be done with an adolescent’s quest for sex.
Director Sean Anders and his writing partner John Morris get over that hurdle by taking the movie’s fairly simple premise and filling it with so much raucous and raunchy laughs, you’ll find yourself laughing way too hard to even think about the familiar ground they’re driving across. More importantly, they’ve assembled a great trio of young actors to play the three friends whose on-the-road encounters and mishaps make up the movie.
It takes mere minutes to set up the premise of Josh Zuckerman’s Ian chatting up an online hottie with the handle “Miss Tasty” and her offering to have sex with him if he drives the nine hours to visit her, an offer that no self-respecting virgin could ever possibly decline. Ian turns to his best friend Lance (Clark Duke) to help him steal his brother Rex’s sweet ride, a ’69 GTO, but they soon find themselves joined by a third wheel in Felicia, Ian’s childhood friend who wants to tag along.
It’s hard not to think of a young Jason Biggs in the first “American Pie” movie while watching Zuckerman deal with his virginal humiliation, and he brings a similar charm to the role that’s hard to pinpoint. Clark Duke’s Lance follows in a long line of smart alec best friends who always seem to know everything about women, the best and most recent example being Jonah Hill in “Superbad.” Duke isn’t nearly as natural, but he does make a great foil and instigator for Ian to get into all sorts of trouble. Amanda Crew, the “annoying little sister” in “Final Destination 3,” is amazingly daring as Ian’s childhood friend Felicia, enduring all sorts of crazy things to get laughs, including getting hit in the face with a giant lollipop and peeing in a radiator. Much of the movie revolves around an awkward love triangle between the three of them–Ian has always had a thing for Felicia, but she’s attracted to bad boy Lancebut you like all of them so much that you will want to see how it plays out on the road.
Then there’s Ian’s homophobic muscle-headed brother Rex, a role that might have been played by Seann William Scott five years ago. It’s a fairly cartoonish stereotype of a rude and obnoxious older brother, but the role’s made even funnier by the fact he’s played by James Marsden. You might not even recognize him at first because it’s such a different role than anything he’s done before, but he pulls it off, and it’s even funny when you realize who it is.
Even with such a strong foursome at the core of the story, there’s still plenty of room for other comic actors to show up and take the laughs in new directions. The best “guest appearance” is Seth Green as Ezekiel, the acerbic Amish mechanic they encounter when their car breaks down, leading to an extended stay during the Amish party season of “Rumspringer.” Green’s cynical delivery really is the comic high point of the movie, and it feels like he’s passing the buck to the younger cast, having starred in similar movies as a teen. (Make sure you stay through the end credits for another funny bit with Green facing rockers Fall Out Boy.)
Other funny road stereotypes the friends encounter include the obligatory hitchhiker you never want to meet on the road, this one played by David Koechner, and a couple recurring adolescent boys who could very well be Jason Mewes’ love children. Like some of the best R-rated comedies, Anders and Morris never allows any one character or situation to outstay its welcome, and they have a clear understanding of how technology plays a big part in the lives of their young people these days. When the trio runs into problems, someone is always there with a camera to put it on the internet just like in real life.
Any of the T ‘n’ A or bathroom humor that might seem gratuitous is justified by the fact that it never goes so far across the line of good taste to lose or turn off its audience. Instead, it’s used to bolster the story and the relationship between the friends, keeping the movie from getting dull. That said, the movie does feel slightly long and it sometimes lays the corn on a bit thick with the importance of friendship, but by then, you’ll already genuinely like the characters enough to stay on board the ride until the end.
The Bottom Line:
Plenty of obscenity-filled comedies have gotten laughs by pushing the boundaries of taste, but Anders and Morris have created a very different spin on the teen coming-of-age road movie, one that never loses sight of the importance of strong characters and storytelling. Anyone just looking for laughs is guaranteed a good time with the many opportunities offered by “Sex Drive.”