I'm going to flip flop a couple of times during this review for reasons that I hope will become evident. I read some solid reviews about Sex Drive, a raunchy 2008 teen comedy in the American Pie mold and yet it's simply sat on the shelf since it arrived a few weeks ago. I brought a copy home this afternoon and sat down fully expecting another shitty teen shock-comedy in the Judd Apatow vein. Not surprisingly for the most part, that's what I got. The story is a carbon copy of any number of teen virgin comedies from Porky's to American Pie. There's lots of telegraphed political incorrectness, just-legal girls showing their perfect tits, awkward post-pubescent almost-man talk, a sage of sorts, lots of talk about fags and taking it up the bum, etc. etc. It's got Ruder! Cruder! Nuder! written across the DVD case – end of story.
Well, not quite. I stayed with it for about half an hour and started to kind of like it. I could have done with a few less cock and bull jokes and sight gags but the characters started to become just a little bit endearing. It veered off into some completely ridiculous territory (I mean it is called Sex Drive after all) and while not everything works, there were moments that were thoughtful and.... dare I say it, insightful? Probably not. The other piston that was furiously cranking away pretty much the whole film is this....it's a really funny movie. It's not aimed at my demographic to be sure, but unlike Apatow's funereal fart-joke crap, Sex Drive actually made me laugh. A lot.
So I'm stuck. On the one hand, Sex Drive is a overly raunchy teen sex-comedy about driving across America to get laid and on the other, it's rather a good one with good characters and an exceptionally funny script. The problem with Sex Drive is this; it would have been just as funny and way more marketable if they'd left most of the crudeness at the door and done a updated Freaks and Geeks movie. The film that it most reminded me of was Amy Heckerling's 1982 Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a smart film that was rated R 25 years ago but would likely get a G rating today. For it's time it too was a raunchy and crude film but it didn't – well, mostly at least – resort to the toilet humour that pervades teen comedies these days. The Sex Drive DVD comes with two disks, the theatrical cut and an unrated director's cut, but I think the extra disk went the wrong direction. As it stands, even the theatrical cut is just too randy for the tweeny crowd, even though the forbidden fruit of the odd dildo-teen-rom-com makes it a little marketable to that crowd.
I wonder what the studios are thinking some days. The target market for Sex Drive is just too narrow. The filmmakers had a really good project here and buried it in a genre that has very limited appeal outside its sliver of a target market. If they'd stripped out the crass, go-for-the-17-year-old-mentality elements of the script, this film is a home run. It didn't need to be neutered or cut down to 27 minutes to get there either. Most of it would have worked without the stuck-on R-rated bits. As it is, it made exactly $8,402,485 domestically while Superbad, a film not half as good or a tenth as funny made in excess of $120,000,000. If disk 2 in the DVD set was a PG rated version of the film, we couldn't keep it in the store. As it is, we can't rent it because the target market doesn't rent movies. Bummer.