No question about it, comedies have come back in full force this year. There have been so many excellent comedies that finding laughter and a solid story is ridiculously easy. That's not to say that there haven't been poor comedies lately. In fact, seeing "How To Lose Friends and Alienate People" shortly after viewing "Sex Drive" made me realize just how bad some comedies can be.
The premise of "Sex Drive" is a relatively simple one, yet the movie is done with such heart that it comes across as rather fresh. Ian (Josh Zuckerman) is a recent high school graduate who can't seem to get rid of his perceived virginity stigma. He's your stereotypical nice guy, always a friend, never anything more. He bends over backwards to help girls, and he gets stepped on. His best friend Lance (Clark Duke) wouldn't seem from his chubby, spectacled exterior to be a ladies man, yet somehow he pulls it off with relative ease. Despite Lance's efforts to help Ian out, Ian just cannot seem to follow through.
In the meantime, Ian has been chatting up "Ms_Tasty" (30 Rock's Katrina Bowden), an online companion to whom he has been presenting himself as a college football player and practicing being a jerk. So after she claims that she'll have sex with him if he drives from Chicago to Knoxville, TN, he packs up his bags and attempts to hit the road with Lance. As it always is in movies such as this, things don't go quite as planned.
What really works is that at the center of this movie, the story is overwhelmingly solid. Sure there are plenty of unbelievable moments, but the characters all react in ways that make sense and are internally consistent. At the same time, the wacky situations are tempered by corresponding sweetness that allows you to be pulled further into the story. The actors especially really work to drive it home, especially Ian's brother Rex, played by the hilarious James Marsden. Marsden hasn't really been in many comedies over the years, normally playing the brooding, serious guy who gets his girlfriend stolen from someone else. But here, he really uses everything that he's given and highlights the film anytime he is on screen. Others, such as Ian's best friend Felicia (Amanda Crew), really help to ground the movie by not allowing all the male stuff to get too out of hand.
The movie follows all the road movie touchstones, including a run-in with a rather knowledgable Amish man named Ezekiel (Seth Green) who helps them along their journey when they run into car trouble. Overall, there are a few elements of predictability that you can see coming from the get-go, which can be seen as a negative. But fortunately the humor quotient is so high that it renders these issues rather pointless.
What is certainly great to see though is story-based comedy that doesn't have gags for the sake of gags but the humor develops from the story. This is the type of teen comedy that will hopefully last for a while and not be the forgettable movie a lot of people are expecting it to be. And if nothing else, see it for the giant donut costume. I sometimes I wish I had one of those. (Okay, all the time.)