Film Review: Sex Drive

Miss the ’80s? So do the makers of this well-meaning but largely unfunny retro teen-sex comedy.

If it weren't for the fact that the story revolves around that popular 21st-century method of communication known as instant messaging (or "IMing," as the kids call it), the new comedy Sex Drive could have been made circa 1984, when cheerfully smutty teen sex romps like Porky's and The Last American Virgin were cluttering up movie screens. Just like those films, Sex Drive is awkwardly acted, indifferently directed and single-mindedly devoted to exploiting the female form for the pleasure of the (largely male) population behind the camera and in the audience. Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you. While it's virtually impossible to defend Porky's on an artistic level, that movie and films like it do serve a purpose as nostalgic touchstones for guys reflecting on their transformation from boys to men…or at least, slightly older boys with hair in new places.

That said, it's hard to imagine anyone who bothers to see Sex Drive thinking back on it fondly many years later. In order for that to happen, the movie would have to contain at least one memorable scene or line of dialogue that viewers could repeat over and over again after they leave the theatre. It's not even that Sex Drive is a terrible film—that would at least guarantee that people would remember it well enough to tell their friends, "Hey, guess what piece of crap I watched last night?"—it's just a completely disposable one. You know you're trapped in a creatively challenged picture when the big comic centerpiece involves a raucous barn party on an Amish farm.

Based on a 2006 young-adult novel by Andy Behrens, Sex Drive follows the amateur sexploits of a never-been-kissed 18-year-old virgin named Ian (Josh Zuckerman), who is being pressured by everyone from his psychotic older brother Rex (James Marsden) to his Hugh Hefner-in-training best buddy Lance (Clark Duke) to do the deed with the first willing female he can find. Unfortunately for Ian, the only girl who enjoys his company is next-door neighbor Felicia (Amanda Crew), a close friend since childhood who clearly doesn't feel about him "that way." Just when he's on the verge of giving up any hope of getting some, salvation arrives from an unlikely source: an online hottie known only by her screen handle, Ms. Tasty (Katrina Bowden).

Ian and Ms. Tasty have been flirting via IM for several months and he's managed to convince the buxom blonde that he's a stud-muffin football player who roars around town in a vintage Pontiac GTO (which actually belongs to Rex). Horny and bored, Ms. Tasty invites her virtual beau to make the nine-hour trip from his home in Chicago to her stomping grounds in Knoxville with the promise of some major-league nookie for his trouble. So Ian, Lance and Felicia steal Rex's beloved car (shades of another ’80s staple, Ferris Bueller's Day Off) and head south. Along the way, they experience all manner of misadventures including the aforementioned Close Encounter of the Amish Kind. Oh, and Felicia and Ian decide that maybe they should be more than just friends…but you probably guessed that was going to happen.

Sex Drive would no doubt feel like less of a museum piece if it weren't being released in the wake of such sex comedies as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Knocked Up and, the best of the lot, Superbad. It's no coincidence, by the way, that all of these films are Judd Apatow productions; like the makers of Sex Drive, Apatow and his stable of regular collaborators came of age in the Porky's era and those films have had an obvious influence on their own output. The key difference is that Apatow has found a way to marry outlandish sexual hijinks with compelling coming-of-age stories. You never really cared about any of the characters in Porky's, but you're constantly rooting for the Superbad dudes to both get the girl and grow up a little. Sex Drive makes a few halfhearted attempts to follow that model, but it lacks the expert casting and up-to-the-minute dialogue that distinguishes almost every Apatow-branded picture. To put it in the context of ’80s movies, if Superbad is built to last like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Sex Drive will fade into obscurity like My Tutor.