One normally tries not to bring the marketing of a film up in its review. Maybe one can toss in a mention here of a misleading trailer or of a really clever teaser poster, but that only serves and represents a film up to a point, after which the final product should serve and represent, well, itself.

However, the poster for Sex Drive so clearly represents what I cared for least in this film that we're just going to start there ... specifically not with the relatively apt one in which our protagonist (Josh Zuckerman) has an erect speedometer, but the most recent one, the one that just has a donut on it.

See, our pal Ian (Zuckerman, looking not unlike John Cusack or Jason Biggs in similar teen virgin sad-sack roles) works at a Mexican donut kiosk in the local mall and is consequently forced to trot around, offering flyers and taking abuse (hey, those mallrats stuck a styrofoam penis on his costume! And then an angry father sends him sliding down some nearby stairs! Wacky!). That's it. It isn't pertinent to Ian exaggerating his online profile enough to attract the attention of one Ms. Tasty, and it isn't relevant to his helping himself to the gorgeous 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge that belongs to his hot-headed brother (James Marsden) and subsequently hightailing it from Chicago to Knoxville in the name of promised poon.

Yes, it's like The Sure Thing crossed with Road Trip ... with the pre-credits family ejaculation humiliation lifted from American Pie, the jerk big brother from Weird Science, the snarky fat friend from Superbad, the 'borrowed' car from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and the equivalent of the Howard Cosell duo from Better Off Dead, if they had instead been played by Stifler's twin cousins. (And didn't Road Trip also have a gratuitous shot of an elderly man's scrotum? I could be wrong.)

There are some laughs along the way, don't get me wrong, primarily due to Marsden's gung-ho performance as pretty much the opposite of Enchanted's charming prince (although an attempt in the coda to ironically play on his rampant homophobia feels like a cheap way of saying 'just kidding!') and by the appearance of Seth Green as a particularly sarcastic but helpful Amish fellow. More immediately along for the ride are Clark Duke and Amanda Crew as Ian's hounddog hipster best friend and his girl-friend-not-girlfriend-yeah-right, respectively. The former gets off a couple of decent zingers, while the latter tries her best to give the film some genuine heft when it decides to get into inevitable conflict territory.

And you'll know when Sex Drive gets into inevitable conflict territory, and not just because you've likely seen dozens of other similar and superior movies. No, after all the raucous fun that's been going down, director/co-writer Sean Anders offers up a roadkill euthanasia gag that almost bludgeons whatever comedic momentum the film had going for it. It's a joke that I actually think could work in some other, darker movie, but here, the only bit that reeks of equal desperation is that effin' donut, which sure as the sun shines pops up not too long after in the film's unsurprising, if decently dovetailing, climax, just when things aren't wacky enough.

That's just it, though: I've seen smart and dumb people alike guffaw over the sight of that donut, with his sombrero and overgrown mustache and sprinkles colored like the Mexican flag. But where's the wit there? I'm fine with Sex Drive being a derivative teen romp, and I'm fine with it being a maybe-on-cable level of amusing, but at the end of the day, in 2008, is this the best modern teen comedies have to offer? A Mexican donut costume? Everyone else sees the donut, and boy, do they laugh, but all I can see is the hole.

categories Reviews, Cinematical