Sex Drive

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“Sex Drive” has a plot that’s similar to the one in “The Sure Thing.” It’s also a road-trip comedy, and it features all the usual types of automotive mayhem and run-ins with strange rural characters and misadventures involving animals. It also begins with a scene that’s identical in format and tone to various scenes in the “American Pie” films, with a protagonist who looks and acts like Jason Biggs, and another character who might as well be Stifler.

“Sex Drive” is not a terribly original movie, in other words, with a plot borrowed from countless 1980s comedies and crude sexual scenarios borrowed from more recent movies. It is, however, often a very funny movie, regardless of where its ideas came from. The cast is fresh-faced and likable, and the movie is able to boast a bizarrely amusing performance by Seth Green as an extraordinarily sarcastic Amish man.

Ian (Josh Zuckerman) is a recent high school graduate and a quintessential Nice Guy, which means he finishes last and remains a virgin. He barely looks old enough to drive, let alone have sex, but the movie assures us he’s 18. (The actor is 23.) He marvels at the confidence displayed by guys who would seem to have even less to offer than he does. His best friend, Lance (Clark Duke), who would normally be the chubby, sexless sidekick, is in fact a total chick magnet. Even Ian’s own 14-year-old brother manages to score.

Ian has been chatting online with a girl called Ms_Tasty, though, and she seems to want him. That is, she wants the guy Ian claims to be — a rugged football player with a 1969 Pontiac GTO. She lives in Knoxville (Ian’s in the Chicago suburbs), and she says that if he’ll drive down to meet her, she’ll do the deed with him.

Would a teenage boy, no matter how horny, really drive eight hours just to lose his virginity to a stranger? If you have to ask then I suspect you have never been, or known, a teenage boy.

Ian really does have access to a ’69 GTO, sort of: It belongs to his older brother, Rex (James Marsden), the aforementioned Stifler knock-off who harasses Ian constantly over his dorkishness and is 95 percent sure Ian is gay and a lost cause. Ian and Lance steal the GTO and head for Tennessee, accompanied by their platonic best friend Felicia (Amanda Crew), whom Ian is secretly in love with and who is secretly in love with Lance. But they lie to her about the reason for the road trip, which lends an unnecessary bit of subterfuge to the plot. Given her one-of-the-guys place in their friendship, would she really object if she knew it was a booty call? And if she did object, so what? Leave her home.

The bulk of the film concerns the road trip and its attendant disasters, with the ever-percolating romantic angst bubbling up now and then as a palate-cleanser. The road-trip hijinks are hit-or-miss, as these things often are; I found that I laughed more at the dialogue than at almost any of the physical humor. As written by Sean Anders (who also directed) and John Morris, adapted from Andy Behrens’ book “All the Way,” the screenplay is rife with R-rated smack-talk and repartee, delivered by Zuckerman, Crew, and (especially) Duke with enough wit and charisma to silence complaints that they are merely a trio of Judd Apatow wannabes.

Also hilarious, and delivered in appropriately small doses, is James Marsden, whose furious anger and malevolence are a far cry from the softies he played in “Hairspray” and “Enchanted.” He doesn’t get to sing here, but he does get to fight one-on-one with a garage door, which is a different skill set altogether.

Oh, yeah, the Amish guy. The GTO breaks down and a helpful but sardonic Amish fellow helps them out. The rock band Fall Out Boy shows up too, for some reason.

There’s really no excuse for a movie with a plot this thin and characters this uncomplicated to last 109 minutes. The out-of-control last act, which ditches every remaining shred of plausibility in favor of crazy physical stunts (the way so many episodes of “The Simpsons” do), could easily be shortened and should probably be reworked entirely. Nonetheless, the age-old battle between being a Nice Guy and being a guy who gets action is almost always good fodder for a teen comedy, and “Sex Drive” earns enough laughs to make it worth the trip.

B- (1 hr., 49 min.; R, pervasive harsh profanity, a lot of nudity, some very strong sexuality and sexual dialogue.)

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