- Rated R
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All photos © Summit Entertainment
Reviewed by David Medsker
ot everything in “Sex Drive” works, but it’s easy to forgive the movie for its weaknesses because it’s so rare that a movie, um, goes for it the way this one does. Most teen sex comedies tease more than they put out – they’re long on the comedy and short on the sex. Not so, “Sex Drive,” which gives up the goods and then some. Indeed, this might be the raunchiest sex comedy of all time.
The movie begins with scrawny virgin Ian (Josh Zuckerman) having an IM chat with a girl that’s way out of his league. (Ian told her he’s a football player.) The girl invites him to see her in Knoxville, with the promise of hot sex when he arrives. Ian, who never does anything impulsive, decides not only to see her but to drive there in the muscle car owned by his lunkhead older brother Rex (James Marsden), who’s out of town. He ropes in his childhood buddy Felicia (Amanda Crew) and average-looking ladykiller Lance (Clark Duke) to join him, and the trip from their sleepy Chicago suburb down south, well, goes completely off the rails. Between the sarcastic Amish carriage driver (Seth Green), the demented hitchhiker (the go-to actor for comedic cameo roles of late), and the mysterious hot rod that taunts them throughout their journey, the three are lucky to make it to Knoxville in one piece. Once they arrive, things get even weirder.
In the first act, it appears that “Sex Drive” is going to play out like a teenaged version of a Ben Stiller movie, with Zuckerman getting beaten and humiliated from start to finish. And while he definitely suffers the lion’s share of embarrassment, Felicia and Lance take a few for the team as well, and that distribution of abuse is crucial to the movie’s success. Duke is the movie’s true star; looking like a cross between Sean Lennon and Masi Oka, Duke is impossibly cool and confident, and his performance here will place him on or near the A-list for Overweight Character Actors. Zuckerman, however, isn’t quite as convincing. He’s exceptionally good at being a dork, but in the rare moments where he stands his ground, he still looks weak. And then there’s Marsden, the Chet Donnelly to Zuckerman’s Wyatt. After doing the rom-com thing in “27 Dresses” and “Enchanted,” he lets it all hang out here, and it’s a blast to watch.
If only the story had as much personality as the characters playing it out. The movie’s ending is telegraphed from the first frame, and while it’s the right ending, it’s difficult to get emotionally involved in what happens along the way. There are also many, many jokes that just don’t work. Director Sean Anders was fearless in his determination to insert every crazy idea he could think of (three words: female prison scene), and while we applaud his decision, it does not come without its share of peril. This also, strangely enough, marks the second time this year that a movie has featured a scene improperly scored to REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” (“Horton Hears a Who” is the other, for those keeping score at home.) At the risk of giving away too much, we’ll simply say that there is a song in Julie Brown’s catalog that would have fit the scene like a glove.
This might shock some readers – though it shouldn’t – but movie critics have the same biases as everyone else, and rarely enter a theater as the tabula rasa that is often (and naively) expected of us. I admittedly went into “Sex Drive” expecting nothing but 90 minutes of dumb, and walked out stunned at how much better the movie was than I was expecting it to be. It’s far from perfect, but few teen sex comedies are. The fact that it works more often than not is a major, major victory. It probably won’t make much of a splash in the theaters, since it’s being distributed by newbie Summit Entertainment, but it’ll be a smash on video.
Two-Disc Special Edition DVD Review:
Give Summit credit for sticking to their guns to the very end. “Sex Drive” tanked at the box office, but that didn’t stop them from rolling out a two-disc edition of the film featuring the theatrical cut and, no joke, the most awesome unrated cut we've ever seen for a comedy. Along with showing take after take of the actors riffing on certain jokes, they have inserted a truckload of gratuitous nudity, male and female. (The scene of Lance running through the cornfield is, shall we say, enhanced.) There is also an entertaining audio commentary featuring the movie’s writer, producer and director, and some refreshingly un-serious featurettes where cast and crew rip each other to shreds, and absolutely pile on James Marsden, the movie's biggest star. Don’t be surprised if this becomes a big, big hit on DVD.