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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Sex Drive

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Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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Fasten your seatbelts for yet another road trip film, folks, but this one’s actually funny despite some predictable outcomes and stereotypical portrayals.  You’ll recognize the premise from 1985’s The Sure Thing, where the road leads a male virgin to a hot babe-in-waiting.  Updated to include the Internet, Sex Drive roams the interstate with Ian, (Josh Zuckerman) Lance, (Clark Duke) and Felicia, (Amanda Crew) three high school pals on an automotive quest (Illinois to Tennessee) to leave Ian’s “virgin territory behind” as the tagline states.


Besides being a virgin, Ian is a literal donut (in costume) at his mall job, a nebbish at school and mercilessly tormented by older and younger siblings at home.  He’s the lunch meat in a nightmare sandwich made up of an older, aggressively homophobic brother Rex, (James Marsden) and a younger brother Dylan, (Cole Petersen) who’s discovering all about the birds and bees at the tender age of 14.  Daily escape comes from his e-mails to Ms. Tasty, a hottie that requests a face to face with the football star/ hunk that Ian claims to be.

Rex does have a classic, orange GTO nicknamed “The Judge”, complete with a NOFATCHX license plate, which Ian “borrows” for his trip to see Ms. Tasty.  Felicia and Lance tag along for moral support and because, hey, the car’s pretty cool.  Lance is an improbable babe magnet, chubby and myopic, who nonetheless has the confidence of an Adonis and the popularity to prove it.  Felicia is a quiet, level-headed girl who has a secret crush on Ian that she almost admits, then hides – even she knows that road trip formulas call for this revelation much later in the film.

The event-filled journey is full of detours, mishaps and quiet moments where Ian and Felicia really get to talk, discover, and fall into an emotion that you are putting together in your head right now, without any help from me.  Lance enrages a monstrous redneck by romancing his wife during one pit stop.  The enraged Rex is on the trio’s trail with murder and mayhem on his mind while his classic car is acting up and breaking down.  Ah, road trips.  Nothing ever stays the same.  Epiphanies abound.  You just have to sit around for 90-120 minutes waiting for the characters to catch up to what you think they will do.

Ian and Felicia slowly creep toward their inevitable realization, with detours, misunderstandings, and obstacles at every turn.  Felicia does something rash and dimwitted midway through the film (in the name of impetuous, youthful fervor) that made me question her ability to discern between the two.  While I appreciate a formula detour, I would like it to make sense, but I digress.

Adventures pile up, and the Amish make an unexpected appearance for several mechanical rescues.  Ezekiel (Seth Green) is a smiling, smoothly sarcastic car expert who chides Ian about his perceptions about Amish life, while accepting free help.  Ian finally gets to meet Ms. Tasty, (Katrina Bowden) but get a taste of something he never bargained for.  Rex catches up to team Ian in Knoxville just as events turn menacing.  Sneaking up on you during all of the predictable moments are laughs that emerge from improbable places.

Directed and co-written by Sean Anders (with John Morris) from a novel by Andy Behrens, "Sex Drive" knows it’s a formula flick, but chooses to make the best of it by departing from the main highway of predictability when it can.  When that’s not possible, it simply has fun with some quirky performances.

James Marsden’s hotheaded portrayal of older brother Rex is a guilty pleasure to watch, and he perks up the screen with his obnoxious energy.  Seth Green delivers cynicism with a smile above his red Amish beard. Two of Ian’s high school acquaintances (Charlie McDermott, and Mark Young) form a comedic stereo of teen libido witticisms throughout the film that may foreshadow a future production based on that duo.

Josh Zuckerman and Amanda Crew are a bit too mainstream to portray outcasts, but are sympathetic enough to have you rooting for them.  Clark Duke is a welcome departure from the appearance-obsessed Hollywood culture, proving that magnetism and charisma are not always tied to physical attributes, but to a confident attitude and a steadfast belief in one’s idol-worthiness.

Because of the talented cast, and despite pit stops in predictable places, Sex Drive is still a trip worth taking.