Speaking in semi-awe of two snorting, greasy teenage vulgarians, Lance (Clark Duke
) diagnoses their problem thusly: "They don't know how to close." His appreciation comes from their relentless, unfazed ability to open -- they will speak to, and hit on, any girl they come into contact with.
I feel similarly about Sex Drive. It has a certain comic dexterity, a willingness to set up sight gags, cutaways, and funny lines, many of the latter coming from Duke as an unlikely nerd-lothario encouraging his virginal buddy Ian (Josh Zuckerman
) to get laid by any means necessary. But while the movie produces a fair amount of chuckles, it also cobbles together a whole lot of scenes with no discernible endgame apart from a gross-out punch line. The movie's first half-hour, in particular, spends an unseemly amount of time ripping off American Pie -- parents walking in on that, characters slipping and falling on this -- with a devotion that would seem more at home in an eleventh grade screenwriting class. Article continues below
It doesn't help that Zuckerman looks like a police composite of at least two or three of the American Pie dudes, more generic Thomas Ian Nicholas than specific Michael Cera
. Ian, as a character, is defined primarily by what he's not: a confident player like Lance, liked-that-way by his long-time best friend Felicia (Amanda Crew
), or a raging homophobic bully like his older brother Rex (played by James Marsden with a gusto that can't disguise its rote Stifler-on-steroids origins). What he is instead: one of those characters who a movie will tell us, talking out of both sides of its mouth, needs to learn to break out of his shell by taking chances, and also to be himself.
In this case, self-improvement and/or actualization comes through Ian's chances, however remote, of sleeping with an internet chat buddy -- a supposed babe whose sexual advances inspire Ian to steal his brother's GTO and drive several hundred miles to meet her, with Lance and an unsuspecting Felicia in tow. (Hence the title.)
From this point, the American Pie resemblances must make room for an episodic, cartoony sketchiness owing a debt to Road Trip, Harold and Kumar, and Superbad, prudently covering almost the entire spectrum of modern sex comedies (and avoiding, then, the out-and-out eighties-style exploitation). Some of these adventures are, it must be said, amusing and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, especially Seth Green
's bit as an Amish man who prizes sarcasm above all else, and Marsden's volcanic fury over grand theft GTO.
But Ian and Felicia, it becomes clear, will be bound by the rules of teenage romantic comedy, hiding feelings and engaging in pointless misunderstandings; Zuckerman and Crew are cute kids (or rather, cute twentysomethings playing kids), and the movie is almost too aware of this, preferring the complications of mediocre screenplays to the complexities of genuine characters. Co-writers Sean Anders
and John Morris (Anders also directed) come up with a lot of sex-related gags, but wind up writing sex off as mere metaphor -- an awkward re-reading of points made in American Pie and The 40-Year-Old Virgin that sound almost prim in less arresting voices.
You see Anders and Morris trying to enter that rarified air. Instead, their movie falls somewhere between a labor of love and a craven bid for studio work: It casts pudgy, bespectacled Clark Duke as a ladies' man and lets him pull it off, but wastes time trying to compete with American Pie. It flaunts its alt-comedy cameos from the likes of Brian Posehn and David Koechner, yet also gives us an appearance from Fall Out Boy and, by sad necessity, characters who seem to like Fall Out Boy for no real reason. It's a road trip with too many stops for fast food.