Sex Drive is a raunchy road trip comedy that comes with a few surprises, though probably not the ones the filmmakers intended. It's no surprise that the movie goes for sweet romance near the end, or that its characters says endlessly filthy things to each other for an hour and a half. All that is par for the course in the comedy world that Judd Apatow has created in his image. The actual surprises come sporadically throughout the movie, when a joke hits just right, the story takes the perfect turn, and you'll find yourself, against your will, laughing out loud.
It's even more surprising because the best parts sound awful on paper. There's Seth Green as a relentlessly sarcastic Amish man with car repair expertise. Or, later, the drunk Amish girls in their one period of freedom, shouting "Rumspringe!" and passing out in the back of wagons. Even the donut costume, seen constantly in the ads, turns out to create some good jokes. Casting James Marsden as a foul-mouthed, chauvinistic meathead is an intentional stunt, but the surprise comes when the character overcomes the nonstop, predictable homophobia to become-- who would have guessed it?-- hilarious.
So while Sex Drive isn't original, creative or consistent, it's a step or two above average, and the pleasure lies in being surprised when the movie overcomes its own limits. Director Sean Anders, who co-wrote the screenplay with John Morris, isn't interested in reinventing this tired genre, but injecting humor into his story so successfully that it makes a worthy addition anyway.
The plot, such as it is, starts when Ian (Josh Zuckerman), a frustrated virgin about to start college, decides to drive 8 hours to meet his Internet fling, who he knows only as Ms. Tasty. Joining him on his road trip is his ladykiller friend Lance (Clark Duke), who talks him into stealing his older brother Rex's (Marsden) GTO. The two are joined at the last minute by Felicia (Amanda Crew), Ian's best friend since childhood and secret crush.
Of course, nothing goes according to plan. The car breaks down just as a nasty-looking hippie (David Koechner) tries to hitch a ride, Lance hooks up with a gas station attendant whose jealous husband interrupts them, all three spend a night in the slammer, and, most memorably, they spent another night at an Amish enclave where Fall Out Boy, for whatever reason, is playing a concert. Yeah, it's all ridiculous, and becomes even more so as Rex tracks them down to seek his revenge, Lance falls for an Amish girl, and Ms. Tasty proves to be not at all what Ian expected (though, being played by Katrina Bowden, she is in fact hot and blonde). But the more time you spend in this world of hot babes and wild adventures, the more fun it becomes, until lines like "No way my little brother is taking it in the chili ring!" start to feel inspired. Maybe it's a you-had-to-be-there kind of thing, but that's the way it is for pretty much any raunchy comedy. With the right audience and the right frame of mind, Sex Drive could go from merely passable to transcendently, ridiculously funny.
For me, it fell somewhere in the middle. I wouldn't recommend it to my mom, as I did with Superbad, or go out of my way to see it again. But for something that looks so unpromising in theory, Sex Drive is a delight, a mix of absurdism and raunch that just barely avoids overstaying its welcome.