A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this hard-R high school sex comedy -- which is squarely aimed at teens -- is "Judd Apatow lite," meaning that it has all the crassness of Apatow's comedies but not nearly as much heart or brilliance. It centers around a high school senior who's fixed on losing his virginity with the help of a girl he met on the Internet. The road trip to see her is pockmarked with one over-the-top sequence after the next, many of which feature nudity, graphic discussions of sex acts, sex toys, and more. There's also plenty of underage drinking and lots of swearing (including "f--k").
What's the story?
Ian (Josh Zuckerman) is a high school virgin in love with his best friend, Felicia (Amanda Crew). But she might have the hots for someone else. Besides, Ian's been keeping Internet company with a "sure thing." (No coincidence there; SEX DRIVE's basic plot has an awful lot in common with the John Cusack classic of the same name.) A girl he only knows by her Web name, Ms. Tasty, promises to have sex with him if he drives down from Chicago to Knoxville to meet her in his stylin' 1969 Pontiac GTO. Ian's womanizing friend, Lance (Clark Duke), thinks it's an offer he can't refuse. But here's the catch: It's not really Ian's car -- it belongs to his older brother, Rex (James Marsden), who's ferocious, fearsome, macho, and loves his car more than his family.
Is it any good?
This sometimes-hilarious but more often woefully unwitty comedy does have some appeal. Marsden, for starters. Who knew he had it in him to play comically deranged? His bearing, his cackle, his utter commitment to being totally, horrendously foul -- it's perfection. And then there's Zuckerman, who plays the awkward, self-conscious, sensitive teen to a T. In the end, viewers do actually care a little bit whether he ends up with the right girl. And, as a snarky Amish mechanic, Seth Green hits a home run every time he has a line (sadly, his appearance is much too brief).
But honestly, that's pretty much it. Because though director Sean Anders aspires to Judd Apatow-ian (is that a word?) greatness, he doesn't display Apatow's keen ability to separate the offensive from the outrageous. Instead, what we get is crass, gratuitous, gross-out humor flecked with too few moments of pure comedy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the consequences of underage drinking. How realistic is what happens to the teen characters in this movie? What do you think would happen to them in real life if they got drunk? Families can also discuss whether the film portrays teens -- and, by extension, teen life -- accurately? If so, how? What issues does the film address? Was Ian's decision to drive so far to tryst with a stranger adventurous or foolhardy? What about his intent pursuit of losing his virginity? Why is it so important to him? Is that realistic?
- In theaters: October 15, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: February 24, 2009
- Cast: Amanda Crew, James Marsden, Josh Zuckerman
- Director: Sean Anders
- Studio: Summit Entertainment
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong crude and sexual content, nudity, language, some drug and alcohol use - all involving teens.
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