October 23, 2008

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Sex Drive (R)
A young man sets out with his two best friends, his brother’s 1969 GTO and a giant donut costume to find an Internet girl who might or might not be real, might or might not be female and might or might not help him rid himself of his virginity in Sex Drive, a light but charming comedy.

Ian (Josh Zuckerman) is, as he is constantly reminded by his jerkish older brother Rex (a hilariously overheated James Marsden), a virgin. He carries the official Nice Guys Leave Alone torch for his sassy best friend Felicia (Amanda Crew), who uses snark to disguise her lust for Lance (Clark Duke). Lance is the kind of kid who exists solely in a teen comedy — he’s a bit dorky but has maximized the charms of sarcasm, rich absent parents and an understanding that people will want most the things that reject them, to construct a geeky joie de vivre. It is Lance who encourages Ian to take a few days off from the mall job where he occasionally has to promote the donut stand by wearing a human-sized (and for some reason, sombrero-wearing) donut and to pursue a relationship with “Miss Tasty,” the blonde girl Ian’s been corresponding with online. She tells Ian she wants to get together IRL and Ian is suddenly faced with trying to make his Web page’s picture (complete with nonexistent arm muscles and his brother’s mint condition GTO) a reality. But Lance encourages Ian to steal the car and let it do the talking and set out on a nine-hour drive in search of sex.

Faster than you can squeak “road trip,” Ian, Lance and Felicia (who thinks it’s a trip to visit Ian’s grandmother) are on the road, encountering the expected series of quirky characters and having the expected life-changing experiences.

Sex Drive is the popular boisterous sibling of the shy emo Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. But strip away the (respectively) Abercrombie shirts or the black eyeliner and you have two movies that are smart and funny and would get along well with each other (I highly recommend them for a rainy day double feature). And, though neither movie necessarily wants you to know this, both have a sweet heart and a genuine liking for their characters.

And all this cute romance is not just for the male-female couplings. Like many an Apatow movie, Sex Drive’s sweetest relationship and best chemistry is between the bros — Zuckerman and Duke (who I previously knew best from his great supporting role in the TV show Greek) make an excellent onscreen couple, perhaps trumped only by Duke and Seth Green (who shows up about halfway through the movie to represent, comedically speaking, for the older generation).

Yes, penis jokes and general bathroom humor abound but they’re chummy, likeable penis jokes, penis jokes you wouldn’t mind hanging out with at a party. Sex Drive doesn’t exactly take a comedic road less traveled but it does make its trip in style. B

Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, language, some drug and alcohol use — all involving teens. Directed by Sean Anders and written by Anders and John Morris (from the book All the Way by Andy Behrens), Sex Drive is an hour and 48 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Summit Entertainment.