As a genre, the teen sex comedy has always been rather silly. It's the cinematic equivalent of snickering at pictures of old ladies in lingerie, or sneaking into the girl's locker room in hopes of raiding the sanitary napkin machine. We are supposed to laugh at ourselves in such sophomoric stumbling, to see our own hormones and excess of libido raging and laugh at how lame we are/were/can be. From The Pom Pom Girls to Porky's to American Pie, our Puritanical sense personal intimacy has turned lame motion pictures about "losin' it" and "getting' some" into cinematic icons. We tend to celebrate these less than stellar offerings because of how they filter through our own friskiness, not the other way around. It's the same with the simply named Sex Drive. Updating the concept to an Internet and cellphone millennium, we still get the desperate nerd, the understanding gal pal, and the unlikely lothario. It should be a normal nookie fest, right? Well...
Ian is an 18 year old virgin working at a donut shop in the mall. His best friend Lance thinks his lack of sexual experience comes from his limited self confidence. His butthead brother Rex thinks his nervousness around girls is a sign of gayness. Only his Goth-like gal pal Felicia understands Ian - but her motives may be more personal than she lets on. When an online hook-up named Ms. Tasty invites Ian to come to Knoxville, Tennessee to knock boots, the Chicago teen is flummoxed. Should he take the nine hour road trip and realize his lustful fantasies, or forget the whole thing. Lance convinces him to "steal" Rex's cherry 1969 GTO Judge and make for the South. Felicia ends up coming along for the ride as well. Together, this threesome winds confronting some crazed rednecks, a group of understanding Amish mechanics, and a mysterious pimpmobile that keeps chasing them. All this for a little anonymous sex? In Ian's case, it just might be worth the drive.
Sex Drive is just awful. It's also inspired. It's perhaps the worst teen comedy ever created. It's also an unapologetically broad and insular work. For director Sean Anders and his collaborator/co-writer John Morris, this represents the culmination of a lifetime living in the middle of horny arrested adolescent development. For the mostly no name cast, it's a chance to reduce their entire career down to a series of faux fornication jokes and genital references. And for sportswriter turned author Andy Behrens, it's a chance to see his young adult novel All the Way turned into a XXX nightmare by way of a genial John Hughes homage. When you begin watching this surreal, stupid cinematic stool sample, you'll literally gag from the smell. By the time the movie's ridiculously long running time - 109 min. rated, 129 min. unrated - has expired, however, you kind of like the stink. In fact, in a different, drug addled mind set, this might just be the greatest non-movie ever made.
This is beyond the So-BIG classification ("So bad, it's good", for those outside the acronym norm). Sex Drive is like getting a date with the hottest girl at school/work, taking her out for a wholly mediocre meal, realizing you might actually get lucky with this gorgeous goddess, and then discovering she's the lousiest lay you've ever had in your entire limited love life. Yet she's still the most bodacious bit of bird you ever pulled, so you suck it up and take the crappy copulation in stride. You definitely regret it the morning after, but at least you can say you slept with the prom queen, right? That's the viewing experience with Sex Drive. You expect a certain level of cartoon lewdness. Instead, you get dozens of jokes that just don't work and characters that come at you like hungry raccoons in the night. As this retarded road movie keeps lurching toward its Ferris Bueller's Breakfast Club ending, we acknowledge our wasted attention span and 'American Idiot' sense of failure. But since Anders and Morris have done little except meet their own unique approach to entertainment, we take the motion picture penicillin and wait for things to clear up.
In truth, this is a terrible movie. The storyline is too scattered and the people we are asked to follow are tedious and uninvolving. We could care less if the wimped out Ian ever bags a babe, or if he and his predestined best buddy Felicia ever tempt fate and actually fall for each other. About the only individual worth watching is the Pillsbury Doughboy as 'playa' Lance. As essayed by Clark Duke, he's a dork as dreamboat, the kind of kid who shouldn't know how to spell "anal bleaching", let alone understand what it means. And yet all throughout Sex Drive, Lance is the lady-est of ladies men, the loose cannon of carnality who just can't get enough, early Depeche Mode style. Such wrongheaded determination keeps us interested, if not necessary amused and when you combine that with a plot that barely pays off (or clever/clueless cameos from James Marsden and Seth Green) there's too much to dislike about this overlong ordeal. Yet like the STDs the movie seems to be made of, Sex Drive sticks with you. It's perhaps the best worst film you'll ever see - or visa versa. Or both. Or neither.
Summit Entertainment stands up and out-digitals the name studio DVDs with this excellent, fully loaded home video package. The R-rated version is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image that cheats a bit on the original theatrical aspect ratio. Luckily, the sloppy Unrated cut maintains the anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 OAR. The colors are bright and crisp, and the all important skin tones look realistic and authentic. There is little difference between the indoor and outdoor material, and overall, the movie looks a lot better than its tawdry T&A tendencies and low budget limits.
On the sound side of things, we are treated to a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that's perfect for the kind of indie-pop paradigm Anders is looking for. The dialogue is easily discernible, and the various shoe-gazing songs that make up the soundtrack get a nice, multichannel representation.
There are indeed two different versions of Sex Drive on this "Unrated and Cream-filled" Special Edition. They are presented, oddly enough, via a flip disc ideal. The first is the full theatrical experience. The second is what both Anders and Morris call the version that "sucks". In an inventive, if slightly too ironic introduction, the duo appear to explain how the new cut works. All throughout the Unrated version, shots of naked girls and flaccid penises will appear, mostly at random, to up the "tit and testicle" factor. They are usually done via greenscreen, and stick out in ways that are both wanton and really, really weird. There will also be outtakes, alternate scenes, improvisations that didn't work (including fourth wall breaking shouts of "cut" from the director) and extended homophobic slurs from Marsden. It all works to create a flaccid fever dream of a film.
As for the rest of the added content, we get a rambunctious and rowdy commentary (found only on the R-rated version) featuring Anders, Morris, and producer Bob Levy (among others). It's loaded with information on how the film was made and takes a typically tongue in butt cheek approach to the entire Sex Drive experience. As for the Unrated disc, we get the aforementioned intro and that's it. Disc 2 is mostly EPK like featurettes. The Making-0f is rather self-explanatory, a look at the cast's reaction to James Marsden is priceless, and Clark Duke gets a shout out to his Internet series, Clark and Michael, which also features Michael Cera of Superbad fame. Along with a look at how some of the actors spent a few hours "killing time" in a small Florida town (huh), this is an impressive, if slightly superficial, digital presentation.
Okay, here it comes. BIG dilemma time. The original Sex Drive is so stupid, so shallow, and so...well...sexless, that it really deserves nothing less than a Skip It. It's like watching the Farrelly Brother's inbred offspring attempting to mimic their old men, and failing abjectly and miserably. On the other side, the Unrated version of the film is so irreverent, so "in your face" with its desire to buck tradition and screw with convention that it mandates more than a single viewing. An entire cult could grow out of this bizarro bit of DVD merchandising. It easily earns a Highly Recommended rating. Cutting the difference somewhere between rental and retail, this critic will go out on a limb and give Sex Drive a score of Recommended. This doesn't mean it's a great film - GOD no! What it does mean, however, is that Sean Anders and John Morris understand the limits of their genre choice, and then go about tweaking and teasing them until they're almost unrecognizable. The result is either clichéd and cornball or some sort of stunted genius. You and your loins will have to decide.
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