Why don't we do it in the road?

Sex Drive

on October 16, 2008 by John P. McCarthy
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Going all the way for the first time has long been grist for the multiplex, yet few examples have arrived with as blatant a title as this one, which propels an 18-year-old virgin from the Chicago suburbs to Knoxville, Tenn., for an assignation arranged online. Does it deliver? Yes and no. Sex Drive is diluted by intimacy of a romantic nature and doing the deed gets delayed for far too long. Still, there are ample laughs to distract masses of horny teens from their own inexperience.

The only surprise is that Sex Drive is based on a book—Andy Behrens’ young adult novel with the equally subtle title All the Way. And while its literary origins show in the pacing—it meanders in the middle—the script is pretty good by sex-comedy standards. There are enough offbeat characters and details, including a sarcastic Amish man played by Seth Green, randy Amish girls cutting loose on their Rumspringa and a Mexican donut suit worn by hapless homunculus Ian Lafferty (the nondescript Josh Zuckerman).

Ian is a pent-up high school senior who works at the donut shop in the mall. His 14-year-old brother and pal Lance the Lothario (Clark Duke) upstages him with the ladies. His homophobic older brother Rex (James Marsden) harasses him non stop about his virginal condition, but he gets his revenge by taking Rex’s Pontiac 1969 GTO on a road trip to meet Ms_Tasty, a blonde he’s met in an internet chat room while posing as a buff football player. Lance goes along, as does Ian’s best friend Felicia (Amanda Crew), a fetching brunette for whom he has feelings (natch).

The story dithers, albeit entertainingly, for such a long time—with, among other things, fickle Felicia subconsciously trying to divert Ian from his goal—that you start fearing it will be a dry hump of a movie where he’s concerned. But the payoff in which he becomes a man (if still a virgin—the deflowering comes even later) is worth the wait. Detours, such as a concert by the band Fall Out Boy and the taking of an abstinence pledge at a county fair, are proper milestones. The obligatory condom-shopping montage, a visit to the dentist and an encounter with a mad hitchhiker (David Koechner) constitute padding.

Lacking a freak-and-geek spark or any distinguishing features, Zuckerman is not that easy to root for, so costars Duke and Marsden are able to grab most of the limelight. The scrotum line is crossed courtesy of an elderly man in a Barcalounger but, all in all, the raunch factor isn’t terribly high. Sex Drive does feature one technical innovation worth mentioning. Rather than showing Ian’s computer screen while he types away, his online chat sessions are projected hologram-like alongside regular camera shots, thus eliminating one of the more tedious features of movies made in the internet age.

Fixating on sex is normal and healthy, yet nowadays filmmakers feel compelled to go overboard when balancing physical pleasure with a message concerning the importance of feelings. From an entertainment perspective, however, the only thing transgressive about sex with your best friend is that it goes against the conventional wisdom that says fornication ruins friendship. By arguing it’s worth rolling the dice, Sex Drive tries to conquer the fear of sex and the fear of emotional commitment in one fell swoop. Ditto Rex turning out to be gay. You can’t get much more conventional than that.

Distributor: Summit
Cast: Josh Zuckerman, Amanda Crew, Clark Duke, James Marsden, Seth Green, Alice Greczyn, Katrina Bowden, Charles McDermott and Mark L. Young
Director: Sean Anders
Screenwriters: Sean Anders and John Morris
Producers: Leslie Morgenstein, Bob Levy and John Morris
Genre: Comedy
Rating: R for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, language, some drug and alcohol use—all involving teens
Running time: 108 min.
Release date: October 17

Tags: Josh Zuckerman, Clark Duke, Seth Green, Amanda Crew, James Marsden, Katrina Bowden, Sean Anders, John Morris, adaptation
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