The curse of “American Pie” strikes again with “Sex Drive,” a dreary teen comedy that attempts to pass off an endless series of bodily function jokes as a screenplay. It’s dated, humorless, and miscast all around, not to mention homophobic, ineptly written, and on top of all that holds great disdain for its characters. It’s the latest in a long string of teen sex comedies where the audience just might find themselves rooting for the STDs.
Ian (Josh Zuckerman) is a high school loser, unable to lose his virginity while watching his slovenly friend Lance (Clark Duke, officially the 10,000th young ironic hipster actor working today) nail all the ladies. Meeting a willing girl online, Ian finds his chance to reach out to the opposite sex, electing to steal his bullying brother’s (James Marsden) vintage car and travel with Lance and crush Felicia (Amanda Crew) across a few states to reach his destiny. Hitting the road, everything that could possibly go wrong in fact does go wrong, leading the trio on a Midwestern adventure interacting with sarcastic Amish folk (Seth Green), interstate street racers, and jealous rednecks.
Yes, “Sex Drive” uncomfortably mirrors the 1985 Rob Reiner film “The Sure Thing.” It’s a rather unabashed lift, but even comparing Reiner’s mischievous film to bottom-feeding malarkey like “Drive” is insulting. “Drive” is a teen comedy on auto-pilot; it’s a paint-by-numbers directorial effort from Sean Anders, who cobbles together bits of Hughes, Reiner, and a whole lotta Weisz to fashion an unimaginative decent into the fears and urges of a young man’s virginal soul.
Truthfully, there’s not a moment here the audience hasn’t seen before in bawdier, better films. “Drive” is lazy with its naughty bits, going for shock value over careful orchestrations of humiliation, and blunt obscenity over generous writing. Glory hole encounters? Radiator-cooling urination? Embarrassing semen messes? Anders can be as lascivious as he likes, but at least be funny with this parade of cliches. “Drive” is the type of film that doesn’t just allow exposed elderly testicles to creep out the room, there must be an extreme close-up of said testicles as well. That aesthetic consumes the direction, robbing the picture of any mischief. Subtlety is not an Anders specialty.
With the film in constant pursuit of bathroom humor to exploit, the cast is left to carry most of the “heart” Anders and co-writer John Morris lazily write their way toward. It isn’t enough to call the “Drive” screenplay predictable: it’s a veritable photocopy of previous teen hits. The romantic dynamic between Ian, Felicia, and Lance is as contrived as can be, only half-heartedly sold in the finished film with a few googly eyes, some trendy emo rock (Fall Out Boy cameos), and a bizarre bonding point (a rural “shoe” tree) to make the loving connections and, more accurately, the contractual page count.
Also of mild annoyance are the references peppered throughout the film. A few (“Top Gun,” Steve McQueen) that feel mighty false in a world of characters born in 1991. Surely if “Drive” had better actors, the results might’ve been less plastic. With Zuckerman doing his “every teen” Hollywood casting call impression, Crew unenthusiastically trying to communicate adoration for these nitwit men her character has to choose from (guess which one she picks), and Duke merging irksome Stifler one-liners, loathsome Rainn Wilson deadpan, and unintentionally hilarious Carol Brady hair into the least believable playboy the screen has witnessed since McLovin, “Drive” is drained of its last hope for imagination.
It’s the mission of “Sex Drive” to be juvenile, stupid, and relentlessly horny, and there’s nothing explicitly wrong with that. However, we live in a world with a thousand films just like it. “Sex Drive” is monotonous genre leftovers, a lethargic film coasting on the triumphs of previous horndog celebrations, without any distinctive personality to separate the wheat from the chaff.