Running Time: 101 mins
Rated: Rated MA 15+ (strong sexual references, nudity and coarse language)
The title tells it all. 'Sex Drive' takes us on a bumpy but hilarious journey in Ian's, (Josh Zucherman), badass brother's fire-engine red, 1969 GTO. He drives from Wisconsin to Tennessee to hook up with a red hot babe called Ms Tasty, whom he met on the internet. Eighteen years old, Ian wants to lose what he sees as the crushing weight of his virginity before he gets to College. With him is his laid back buddy Lance, (Clark Duke), and his GGF, the lovely Felicia, (Amanda Crew). The journey, filled with raunchy, terrifying and occasionally whimsical escapades, teaches them all more than they ever wanted to know about life. It uncovers the line between foolhardy 'cool' and simple sincerity; between sex and romance. Raunchy but sweet.
If the film is about young men, cars and sex, it is more than the usual teen comedy. For a start, the coolest dude of all is played memorably by Seth Green who acted in 'The Italian Job'. Here he plays the sarcastic, Amish, Engineering genius the friends meet on their road. He tows the, by now, horribly smashed up GTO behind his buggy, reconstructing it in his hay shed. Sharp eyed, in blue dungarees and with a scraggly red beard, this young Amish farmer buffets the boys from the other world into some decency and responsibility. He digs cool music but has already had his Rumspringa, (time of experimentation), he says. He is a sardonic counterpoint to the mad quest for Ms Tasty.
So the weight of the film lies more in its characters than its story, which is fairly predictable. The team cruises its way along the highway, running into rednecks, feckless aggression, kinky sex, country fairs, charlatans. It reminded me, at times, of 'Huck Finn', but the next age group up. Like all boy adventurers, they light out for the territories, but in the end, need to go back home.
The film opens to an Ian Lafferty, nerdy but nice, shown through his embarrassing moments. The straight role in a comedy can end up flat, but Zucherman plays it quietly and gives us some tender moments. Ian, in his senior year at High School, works at a Donut stand and his pervasive embarrassment is crystallized by the Donut costume he is forced to bumble around the shopping mall in. Initially he is the victim of practical jokes and the manipulation of those with whom he works (and plays). But in the end his donut costume makes it out to Tennessee in the car boot and, in the final shoot out, becomes a kind of hero's armour. Ian goes from nerd to cool, but in a nice way.
Nor is he alone with his teenage angst. For all the apparent cool people at parties and wherever 'in groups' gather, some of his other school-mates also struggle on the outside. Not only does the film fire up to this challenge but, observantly, it adds the additional threat of being caught by mobile phone image and ending up on a 'You Tube' page. Cutting in sequences with this kind of exposé, the film reveals a stinging new edge to adolescent anxiety.
Of course Ian's appropriately named side kick, Lance, pudgy, with zits and bad hair, seems to lead a charmed life. The girls fall for his easygoing confidence but it is all a bit of an act. Underneath Lance is a real softy and just a bit innocent. His acting of the swashbuckling Lothario has all sorts of unexpected consequences. The finale for Lance is strikingly appropriate. Friendship, both between Lance and Ian and between Ian and Felicia, is touching and funny. They lecture each other, look out for each other and lament a lot, as they ride their rollercoaster journey.
Back home in Chicago the finale of the film comes sweetly if a bit too late in the day. Ian's family regathers for Christmas and the story of how to be male ends on a gentle note. They have all have come a long way from that posted by the throbbing 1969 GTO with its numberplate 'NOFATCHX'.
Summit Entertainment Out November 6
Mrs Jenny MacMillan is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.