The past few decades have seen the dusting-off of old tried and true movie genres. Chicago brought the musical back to prominence. Unforgiven showed the world that westerns can still kick ass. More recently, directors like Judd Apatow have dusted off an '80s staple-- the sex comedy-- leading to a slew of imitators. Some, like Sex Drive, have fared better than others.
The big-budget debut of writer/director Sean Anders and co-writer John Morris, Sex Drive tells the tale of Ian (John Zuckerman), a virginal teenager desperate to get laid. His prospects seem dismal, with his best friend Lance (Clark Duke) being a chick magnet and his best prospect, his other friend Felicia (Amanda Crew), perpetually interested in other guys. Fate hands Ian a golden opportunity on the gilded wings of the Internet when he meets "Ms. Tasty" online and-- with the goading of Lance-- steals his brother's (James Marsden) 1969 GTO to head across state lines to sleep with her.
Sex Drive is a strange movie. On one level, it's a funny comedy. The dialogue in the film snaps and crackles, including some truly inspired one-liners. The road trip element of the film is fairly cliche, but there are a series of increasingly insane side-trips-- involving hitchhikers, indecent exposure and glory holes-- that alleviate the film from comedic mediocrity to the cusp of greatness.
On the other hand, the film has a problem shifting gears. Unsure as to whether he's making a teen romance or a sex comedy, Anders tries to do both. The result features Ian's awkward attempts at romance alternating with sequences involving prison, infidelity and masturbation. The mix of the two flavours is not pleasant.
However, on the whole, Sex Drive works and it's largely because of the commitment of the cast to the material. Baby-faced lead Josh Zuckerman looks just like American Pie star Thomas Ian Nicholas-- the bland one that tried to have sex with Tara Reid-- and maintains a kind of earnest likability, even when the script asks him to do some really weird stuff. Amanda Crew allows herself to become the butt of many, many jokes through the film and has great chemistry with the other leads. Michael Cera's buddy Clark Duke, making his feature film debut, steals the vast majority of scenes with his suave charm. Most surprisingly, James Marsden and Seth Green have fantastic performances in supporting roles-- Marsden as Ian's homophobic older brother and Green as a terminally-sarcastic Amish man.
Nothing in Sex Drive hasn't been done before. The "boy drives far to get girl" plot was done as well as it could be in the 1980s with The Sure Thing. Luckily, the makers of Sex Drive are perfectly aware of that fact and, while the plot is paint-by-numbers and the characters aren't original, the film manages to be creative with the smaller details of the film enough to make it interesting. Those looking for romance should look elsewhere, but those willing to laugh at the misfortunes of others might find Sex Drive right up their alley.