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Sex Drive (2008)

Summit Entertainment
DVD Released: 2/24/2009

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/18/2009

I've written before about how film genres go in cycles and that trends come and go. The teen-sex comedy had been around for a while, but it was seen a B-movie fodder and relegated to the grindhouses. This all changed in 1981 when Porky's was released. When that film became a phenomenon, everyone with a camera was tripping over themselves to make a similar movie. (Which led to a glut of late-night viewing on HBO.) As with many trends, things calmed down somewhat until 1999 when American Pie hit theaters. Once again, we were besieged by naked teens, and the trend has continued to this day. The latest entry into the genre is the aptly named Sex Drive.

Sex Drive focuses on Ian (Josh Zuckerman), a sad-sack teenager. He is constantly bullied by his older brother, Rex (James Marsden). Ian works at Senor Donut at the local mall and is often forced to wear a Mexican donut costume while at work. He is a virgin who has never had a girlfriend. He has met a girl on-line named Ms. Tasty and he is only confident while chatting with her via computer. When Ms. Tasty invites Ian to visit her in Kentucky, promising sex if he'll make the journey, he doesn't know what to do. He confides in his best friend, Lance (Clark Duke) (playing the antithesis of his character from Greek), an oddly suave young man who wears ascots, who convinces him to make the trip. So, when Ian's family goes out of town, he and Lance steal Rex's car (his prized possession) and embark. But, they are barely out of the driveway when they are confronted by Ian's other best friend, Felicia (Amanda Crew). Not wanting to confess the nature of the journey, Ian claims that they are going to see his grandmother, so Felicia insists on joining them. What ensues is a series of mishaps and adventures as the trio travels cross-country. Along the way, Ian, Lance, and Felicia will learn a lot about themselves and relationships.

The DVD box of Sex Drive features a blurb from a very famous webmaster (I'm not naming names here) who calls the movie an "original sex comedy". Well, for someone who runs a movie website, he apparently needs to see more movies, as Sex Drive is far from original. The Ian character is a carbon-copy of Jim from American Pie, down to the fact that Josh Zuckerman resembles Jason Biggs. Ian's girl problems and his use of the internet also mirror Jim's antics. The idea of a lonely guy traveling cross-country to see a girl who promises sex is lifted from The Sure Thing. Stealing the older brother's car reminds me of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Rex is Stifler from American Pie crossed with Chet from Weird Science. Lance is an amalgam of off-beat male characters who somehow have a way with the ladies. Once the trio hits the road, issues such as car trouble, insane hitchhikers, and violent rednecks don't exactly come off as new. So, "original" would probably be the last word which I would use to describe Sex Drive.

However, there is one aspect of Sex Drive which I have to admit that I'd never seen before. I don't want to give too much away (much of this is hinted at in the trailer), but Ian, Lance, and Felicia come upon an Amish community which is in the midst of "rumspringa", a time when Amish teenagers are allowed to experiment with the temptations of the outside world. As someone who appreciates a good "rumpsringa" joke, I found this section of the film interesting, although a bit exaggerated.

But, what Sex Drive lacks in originality, it makes up for in gusto. In my recent review for Zack and Miri Make a Porno, I wrote that dirty talk and sexual content isn't as shocking as it used to be. Well, Sex Drive pushes the envelope on that and there are a few "I can't believe they said/showed that" moments here. I found myself laughing at the sheer audacity of some of these scenes. Otherwise, most of the humorous moments in Sex Drive are fairly pedestrian. At times, the movie tries too hard to be shocking, and those moments aren't funny at all. The more subtle moments, mixed with some clever dialogue, do provide some laughs. I especially liked the running joke concerning the fact that everything finds its way to the internet instantly.

Sex Drive proves that the teenaged sex comedy is alive and well. It also proves that once a guy has molested a pie, you really have to go very far to shock an audience. The movie provides some humorous moments and there are a few that you won't believe, but for the most part, this is a by-the-numbers movie which actually runs a bit too long (especially the 129-minute unrated cut). Just be sure that you don't watch it with your Amish friends.

Sex Drive lets a bit too much hang out on DVD courtesy of Summit Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. (Although, the unrated cut is letterboxed at 1.85:1.) The image is sharp and clear, showing no intrusive grain and no defects from the source material. The image is never too dark or bright and the colors look god. The picture is slightly soft at times, and I spotted some mild video noise. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track provides some nice stereo effects, especially one moment where Ian falls off-screen to the right and we hear the resulting crash. The crowd scenes provide solid surround sound effects. Some of the in-film music and the engine of Rex's GTO bring notable subwoofer action.

The Sex Drive 2-Disc DVD contains several extras. The R-rated cut on Disc 1 contains an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Sean Anders, Writer John Morris, and Producer Bob Levy. Despite an awkward opening, this is a good commentary, as the trio provide a frank look at the making of the film. They talk about shooting in Florida, the actors, the challenge of making such a raunchy movie, and the story. The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 2. "Sex Drive: Making a Masterpiece" (12 minutes) is an odd mixture of straight-ahead "making of", where the actors and filmmakers talk about the movie, and mockumentary, where the actors make fun of one another, insult one another, and act apathetic about the movie. The plus side is that there aren't many clips and we get an abundance of interviews and on-set moments. "The Marsden Dilemma" (5 minutes) is a profile of James Marsden, where, as with the previous extra, the cast and crew insult the actor. "Clark: Duke of the Internet" (4 minutes) is nearly a serious piece, as it mentions, but never fully explains, the fact that actor Clark Duke has an internet show. "Killing Time in Hollywood (Florida)" (19 minutes) follows actor Dave Sherian through the hotel where the cast is staying as he shocks and bugs people.

Summit Entertainment has also brought Sex Drive to Blu-ray Disc.  The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 for the R-rated cut and 1.85:1 for the unrated cut and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps.  The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material.  The colors look very good, most notably the greens, blues, and orange of the GTO.  The image has a nice amount of depth and the detail is notably better than the DVD.  I noted no artifacting or video noise.  The Disc has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant rate of 640 kbps which provides clear dialogue and sound effects.  So, this is technically the same track as the one found on the DVD, but it somehow sounds better.  The track delivers excellent stereo effects which show good stereo separation.  The surround sound effects during the party scene and the dance scene are noticeably good.  The in-film music provides some very nice bass effects, some of which are wall-shaking.  Overall, the audio and video presentation are better than the DVD.

The extras on the Sex Drive Blu-ray Disc are the same as those found on the DVD.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long