Virgin, dork and nice guy Ian (Zuckerman) has no luck with girls, until an online encounter with the mysterious Ms. Tasty. She promises to deflower him if he’ll drive across America to meet her, a challenge best friend Lance (Duke) adopts as a personal crusade.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: an awkward teenage vir... oh. Yes, the plot is hugely derivative. It’s mostly The Sure Thing, with elements of Weird Science, American Pie, Better Off Dead and several others. What’s surprising isn’t that these films go uncredited in Sex Drive, but that it was adapted from Andy Behrens’ novel All The Way — he, if anyone, should be examined for potential copyright infringement. Shockingly, though, Sex Drive actually makes all that baggage work.
Writer/director Sean Anders’ success lies in his intuitive ability to deftly cherry-pick gags and scenarios we’ve seen before but aren’t sick of, infusing them with freshness. The opening scene’s superimposed screen chat (with the text appearing alongside the actors) might be slightly worrying, but what could have been an awful gimmick sets up some beautifully timed gags later on — it’s this kind of slack that you have to cut Sex Drive for later pay-offs.
The cast handle the jokes better than the straight stuff, with Clark Duke — seemingly the next in line to Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill etc. — faring best as pudgy lothario Lance. Josh Zuckerman revels in his nerdy humiliations, but struggles to fill Cusack’s leading man shoes, while Amanda Crew acquits ‘there-all-along girl’ duties with aplomb. Elsewhere, an over-the-top James Marsden is having the most fun being an arse, but Seth Green (in a creasingly funny bit part) leaves the biggest impression.
There are gross-out moments (coprophilia gags, an elderly scrotal reveal), but it’s also refreshing to see the main couple, who everyone knows will get together, not conveniently realising this at the end of the film. Anders brings all that forward, spending a good part of their screen time debating why they should or shouldn’t be together — nothing profound, but a nice touch. And that’s Sex Drive through and through; by no means a masterpiece (even
of this genre), but good for a snigger if you’re in the mood. It’s also worth pointing out that The Sure Thing isn’t as good as you remember — we checked.
Okay, it doesn’t have an original bone in its body, but forgetting the awful title, Sex Drive has its share of snappy lines and decent gags. It’s also got Seth Green and James Marsden on cracking form, which should never be underestimated.