There are three things that save Sex Drive from becoming yet another attempt to reignite the American Pie phenomenon. And they are James Marsden, Clark Duke and Seth Green. The former, having clearly researched the Steve Stifler role from the American Pie franchise to death, gets to play the loud, brash, crude yet magnetic older brother here to Josh Zuckerman’s Ian. And he’s clearly having a whale of a time doing it.
Zuckerman, meanwhile, is stuck with the Jason Biggs role, as the virgin high school senior who decides to drive across the country to have sex with a girl he’s been chatting with online. In go a few more teen comedies into the blender, and along for the ride come Lance and the obligatory-girl-who-Ian’s-bound-to-fall-for, Felicia (played by Amanda Crew). Fortunately, the presence of Lance livens the journey immensely, with Clark Duke lifting his performance above the so-so material, and carving himself out a potentially minor star-making turn in the process.
And then they meet Seth Green’s Amish character, Ezekiel. He’s not in the film for long, but Green is the comedy highlight of it, cleverly slightly underplaying Ezekiel’s ernest, helpful nature, and wringing some good laughs out of it. Stick through the credits and you get more of him.
The rest of the film? It’s run-of-the-mill at best. Directed reasonably well by Sean Anders, who co-adapted the screenplay, it’s almost churlish to criticise Sex Drive for having seen it all before, as you have no doubt that everyone involved already knows that. It plays out like a watered down, diluted tribute to gross-out teen comedies, with a compilation pack of gags and situations that’ll come as a surprise only to the most blinkered or naïve. Even a few little attempts to pull the rug as the film enters its final act fail to ignite too many sparks, and there’s little danger of Sex Drive ever leaving its comfort zone.
Nowhere is this more clear than in the relationship between Ian and Felicia, which pans out in true dot-to-dot fashion with the two denying they’re ever going to be more than friends, to the point where you feel like booking them a room in a motel and paying the bill. It wouldn’t be so bad if the film was lean with its running time, but it manages to span its limited premise out to 109 minutes, many of which are wasted.
That Marsen, Duke and Green manage to lift it above rock bottom is a credit to the three of them. And likewise, Sean Anders does manage to wring a few chuckles out of all of this. But Sex Drive is still a tired and spluttering comedy vehicle, that only comes to life in quick spurts.
14 January 2009