Clark Duke, brown-haired and tubby, is no Jonah Hill. And he’s certainly no Michael Cera, though he’s best known for co-starring with “Juno”‘s baby daddy in “Clark and Michael,” a CBS-sponsored webisode series. Ergo, “Sex Drive” — a raunchy teen comedy that’s actually based on a book and not, say, a Penthouse Forum letter — is no “Superbad.”
Of course, Duke isn’t the only reason Sean Anders’ movie ends up being little more than another forgettable addition in the tired crazy-road-trip genre, but he’s certainly the most irritating one. Duke plays Lance, the dandy-ish BFF of main characters Ian (Josh Zuckerman) and Felicia (Amanda Crew) who talks down to salespeople, unkindly tells his brokenhearted bud that his puppy-love crush just isn’t into him, and at one point dismisses Felicia with “Hey, sweetheart. Men are talking.” Yet this ball of charm — an angry, arrogant, even less funny “It’s Pat” — beds seemingly every hot chick the trio comes across, in scenes that are squirmier than the audible squish of Ian’s wet-dream underwear.
Then again, “dick” is arguably a better personality trait than “generic,” which is why you won’t care what happens to Zuckerman’s Ian, a charisma-free virgin who steals his brother’s ’69 GTO so he can meet his Internet flirtation (Katrina Bowden) in person and get laid. Ian, who had postured as a studly football player in his chats with “Ms. Tasty,” is reluctant to make the trip and hoping his search for someone to bang is over when Felicia pulls him aside at a party to confide in him about her crush. Alas, it’s not Ian — leading to an awkward near-kiss, a rebuff that’s witnessed by their fellow binge drinkers and is one of the movie’s few authentic moments — so with a little prompting from Lance, they’re off to find Ms. Tasty.
Hilarity does occasionally ensue in Anders and John Morris’s script, though it’s almost exclusively courtesy of the “Sex Drive”‘s big guns: James Marsden, after delivering spot-on performances as impossibly shiny characters in “Enchanted” and “Hairspray” last year, again proves comedy is his forte as Ian’s bonehead brother, Rex. Rockin’ cropped hair and a barely-there ‘stache-and-goatee, his Rex looks like a tougher Seann William Scott, constantly worries that his younger, gentler bro is “getting gay” and goes on stream-of-consciousness, expletive-filled tangents (such as when he calls Ian a “f*****g c**k expert. Cockspert. What do you like better, your c**k or your balls?”). His passion for brother-bashing is second only to his obsession with “the Judge,” so when Ian makes off with his prized muscle car… well, Rex’s reaction is predictable, but it’s still funnier than 90 percent of the other antics.
Seth Green saves the movie after the kids hit the road as Ezekiel, a sarcastic Amish mechanic who mocks the teens’ assumption that he’s too country to help them: “Good luck with your future ride, Space Man!” he says when the Judge breaks down. Yes, Rex and Ezekiel are a******s too, but unlike Lance, their characters are also clearly stupid and wittily smug, respectively, keys to keeping their vitriol entertaining. (Though Anders and Morris stumble when they try to redeem Rex at film’s end in a most Psych-101 way.)
Ezekiel does end up helping our boring protagonists, and though his constant passive-aggressive quips occasionally cross the line from “Office”-uncomfortable to uncomfortable-uncomfortable, he also introduces the script’s only other semi-inspired subplot: Instead of crashing the usual liquor-fueled party, Ian, Lance, and Felicia hang out on Ezekiel’s farm and witness rumspringa, the Amish custom that essentially allows teens to go forth and sin with impunity before rededicating themselves to their church. There’s still T&A and puking, but hearing the inebriated yell “”Rumspringa!”” every five seconds instead of “Spring break!” is somewhat amusing. (Also funny: The phrase “Mexican b******e.” Particularly when it refers to a cute donut mascot.) The movie’s original moments drown in its overall derivation, though, from its boobies-and-gross-out-gags parade down to a pair of foul-mouthed, attached-at-the-hip losers who may as well be named Jay and Silent Bob. Overall, this “Sex Drive” is weak.