Clark Duke, brown-haired and tubby, is no Jonah Hill. And he’s certainly no Michael Cera, though he’s best known for co-starring with Juno‘s baby daddy in Clark and Michael, a CBS-sponsored webisode series. Ergo, Sex Drive—a raunchy, gross-out teen comedy that’s based on a book called All the Way—is no Superbad.
Duke isn’t the only reason Sean Anders’ movie ends up being little more than another forgettable addition in the tired crazy-road-trip genre, but he’s certainly the most irritating one. Duke plays Lance, the dandy-ish BFF of main characters Ian (Josh Zuckerman) and Felicia (Amanda Crew) who talks down to salespeople, unkindly tells his brokenhearted bud that his puppy-love crush just isn’t into him, and at one point dismisses Felicia with “Hey, sweetheart. Men are talking.” Yet this ball of charm—an angry, arrogant, even less funny It’s Pat—beds seemingly every hottie the trio comes across, in scenes that are squirmier than the audible squish of Ian’s wet-dream underwear.
Josh Zuckerman, Clark Duke, Amanda Crew, James Marsden, Seth Green
US theatrical: 17 Oct 2008
Then again, “obnoxious” is arguably more compelling than “generic,” which is why you won’t care what happens to Zuckerman’s Ian, a charisma-free virgin who steals his brother’s ‘69 GTO so he can meet his Internet flirtation (Katrina Bowden) in person and pop his cherry. Ian, who had postured as a studly football player in his chats with “Ms. Tasty,” is reluctant to make the trip, and is hoping his search for a girlfriend is over when Felicia pulls him aside at a party to confide in him about her crush. Alas, it’s not Ian—leading for an awkward near-kiss, a rebuff that’s witnessed by partygoers and is one of the movie’s few authentic-seeming moments—so with a little prompting from Lance, they’re off to find Ms. Tasty.
Hilarity does occasionally ensue in Anders and John Morris’ script, though it’s almost exclusively courtesy of the Sex Drive‘s big guns. After delivering spot-on performances as impossibly shiny characters in Enchanted and Hairspray last year, James Marsden again proves comedy is his forte as Ian’s bonehead brother, Rex. Rockin’ cropped hair and a barely-there ‘stache-and-goatee, he looks like a tougher Seann William Scott, constantly worries that his younger, gentler bro is “getting gay,” goes on stream-of-consciousness, expletive-filled tangents, such as when he calls Ian a “fucking cock expert. Cockspert. What do you like better, your cock or your balls?” His passion for brother-bashing is second only to his obsession with “the Judge,” so when Ian makes off with his prized muscle car… well, Rex’s reaction is predictable, but it’s still funnier than 90% of the other antics. Ezekiel (Seth Green), a sarcastic Amish mechanic, is also entertaining when he mocks the teens’ assumption that he’s too country to help them: “Good luck with your future ride, Space Man!” he says when the Judge breaks down.
Ezekiel does end up helping our bland protagonists. Though his passive-aggressive quips occasionally cross the line from Office-uncomfortable to uncomfortable-uncomfortable, he does introduce a semi-inspired subplot: instead of crashing the usual liquor-fueled party, Ian, Lance, and Felicia hang out on Ezekiel’s farm and witness rumspringa, the Amish custom that essentially allows teens to go forth and sin with impunity before rededicating themselves to their church. This involves T&A and puking, but hearing the inebriated yell “Rumspringa!” instead of “Spring break!” is amusing. Such novel moments are overwhelmed, however, by the movie’s crushing unoriginality.