Especially once the noughties kicked in, Hollywood started taking fire for its notorious “PG-13-ification” of various genres. Teen sex comedies suffered one of the mightiest blows in this respect – nothing is quite as lame as a sex comedy pulling punches when it could have, and should have, been raunchy and hilarious. Thank God, then, for films like Sex Drive, which come along to remind of us of how hilarious a film can be when it has the freedom to go the distance. Loosely based on the young adult novel All the Way by Andy Behrens, Sex Drive was scripted by Sean Anders and John Morris, and it was designed to resemble American Pie and Judd Apatow’s oeuvre in being a politically-incorrect, hilariously raunchy comedy with a beating heart at its centre. The film rarely misses its mark, and it triumphantly puts the “sex” back into “teen sex comedy”.
Working part time at a donut establishment, 18-year-old Ian (Zuckerman) is a virginal loser with no clue about how to talk to girls, let alone flirt with them. His slovenly best friend Lance (Duke), though, gets loads of action, and is so concerned about Ian’s ongoing virginity that he vows to help him remedy the undesirable condition. The solution presents itself via the internet – Ian meets a stunning blonde hottie (Bowden) online, who promises to go all the way with him if he pays her a visit in Knoxville, Tennessee…nine hours away. It is an offer Lance will not let Ian pass up. With Ian’s lifelong best friend Felicia (Crew) also joining them on the trip under the impression they’re going to visit Ian’s cancer-stricken grandmother, the boys steal a vintage car belonging to Ian’s older brother and take to the open road.
Sex Drive does not cover a lot of new ground from a narrative perspective; representing a merger of American Pie, Road Trip and Rob Reiner’s The Sure Thing. However, the jokes work; the film is consistently entertaining and laugh-out-loud hilarious, making the trip wholly worthwhile regardless of its shallow plotting. There are a few quick, cheap gags, but they are almost always effective, and the talented cast clearly improvised entire segments of dialogue to add to the array of witty jokes and one-liners. Sure, humour is subjective so it seems meaningless to keep stating that the film is hilarious, but rest assured if you enjoy raunchy humour then you will doubtlessly enjoy Sex Drive. Plus, to the credit of the filmmakers, the film is taut and fast-paced, making for an enjoyable romp that at no point grows boring or tedious.
Tonally, Sex Drive is all over the map – purely outlandish in one scene, clever the next, and then sweet – but there is a method to the madness of writers Sean Anders and John Morris, who were simply trying to avoid making a cheap, throwaway slice of teen sex movie fodder. The film begins as a disposable (but nonetheless hilarious) American comedy, but eventually throws a curveball – the three main characters develop personalities, while Ian and Felicia’s friendship is realistically gentle, warm and at times uncomfortable. There are a few moments which display genuine heart, especially the scenes acknowledging Ian and Felicia’s mutual feelings for one another that they cannot act upon. To be fair, there is a sufficient amount of female nudity and raunchy humour to remind us of what Sex Drive truly is, but the character dynamics are more thoughtful than a more run-of-the-mill comedy. In addition, director Anders is clearly a clever filmmaker – he especially shows great innovation in scenes displaying Ian’s online conversations with his internet dalliance, with the chat windows appearing in the air beside Ian like captions in a comic book. It is a creative way to visualise what would otherwise be humdrum scenes of a guy on his laptop.
Leading the hysterical troupe of actors is Josh Zuckerman (Surviving Christmas) in the role of Ian. Zuckerman is sort of a goofy mishmash of Alan Cumming and Zach Braff, and in Sex Drive he summoned the same brand of boyish zest and uncomfortable innocence that worked so well for Jason Biggs in American Pie a decade earlier. Zuckerman was given plenty of amusing material to work with, and he carried out his duties to a high standard. Playing the feisty Felicia is Amanda Crew (Final Destination 3), who’s a strong performer with charisma and a winning personality to make anyone fall for her. The highlight of the bunch, though, is Clark Duke in a star-making performance as Lance. In any other film, Duke – with glasses and his pudgy physique – would be a geeky, socially-awkward misfit who’s hopeless around girls, but in Sex Drive he’s a smooth, debonair playboy and a ladies man who has girls fawning over him. Fortunately, the supporting characters are just as hilarious as the leads. Unleashing his over-the-top comedic side, James Marsden (X-Men) is an absolute riot as Ian’s brother; endowing his role with the intensity of a rabid dog. Seth Green also shows up temporarily as an Amish car mechanic, and he’s a hilarious scene-stealer.
For the DVD of Sex Drive, Sean Anders and John Morris threw together an unrated extended cut of the film which runs for an extra 20 minutes. However, this is not a traditional extended version. Kicking off with an introduction by Anders and Morris themselves, it is a cut strictly for the fans. Not only does it include additional scenes and footage, but it also features ad-libbing, outtakes, and gratuitous additional nudity (generally in the form of random naked people being green-screened into a scene for no purpose at all). The theatrical cut is the movie the creators wanted to make; the unrated cut is merely self-indulgence for the filmmakers and the fans. Definitely watch the original version first.
The premise of Sex Drive is nothing new, but this is a very funny movie regardless of where its ideas were derived from, and the writing allows the plot to feel fresh and renewed. While nothing deep, this is a genuinely fun teen sex comedy that, for last of better word, had me laughing my ass off. Viewers seeking an enjoyable few hours of R-rated comedy should find Sex Drive to their taste. The film unfortunately sputtered and died at the box office during the theatrical run, but it really is worth picking up and watching. It may even develop into a cult classic.