REVIEW: The Virginity Hit Misses
After a recent New York screening of the new mockumentary The Virginity Hit, cowriter/director Huck Botko (who with his partner, Andrew Gurland, also cowrote the August mockumentary The Last Exorcism; they have a type, apparently) told the audience that he had never seen Superbad. No kidding -- where Greg Mottola's paean to the awkwardness of losing virginity felt authentic and grounded, The Virginity Hit feels forced, hollow and ultimately scattershot. Never has watching an on-screen teen trying to lose "it" seemed so empty.
The teen in this case is Matt (Matt Bennett, looking and acting like the spawn of Michael Cera and Andy Samberg), a New Orleans native who is the last of his core friends to still wear the unwanted crown of virginity. Happily for him, though, he won't be a virgin for much longer; after some pre-credit exposition which details the origin of the title (the boys take a ceremonial bong hit when one of them loses their V-card), we find out that Matt is preparing for a night of wild deflowering with his longtime girlfriend, Nicole (Nicole Weaver). There's just one problem: On the eve of Matt's celebratory, post-coital pull, he finds out through the grapevine that Nicole cheated on him at a frat party. There was no sex (this will be important later on), but enough hanky panky occurred to make Matt go nuclear. Or in his case, mildly depressed.
Enter Matt's best friend and adoptive brother, Zack (future Jonah Hill impersonator Zack Pearlman), to hatch a plot that involves embarrassing Nicole by taping their sexcapades for all the Internet to see. Spoiler: It doesn't work, and it leads Matt and Zack on a wild odyssey involving sexual hijinks and alcohol-soaked revelry. Despite the movie's being wrapped in the trappings of 2010 (YouTube, internet dating, and camera phones all factor heavily), the crux of The Virginity Hit is as old as Porky's. And that would be fine -- and could have made The Virginity Hit a light and forgettable teen romp for millennials -- if Botko and Gurland weren't so concerned with making it something more.
The co-directors continually shoehorn in bizarre grace notes for Matt that feel wildly out of place in a teen comedy. We learn that Matt's mother had cancer and died when he was younger, while Matt's father is a former drug addict and current deadbeat; his idea of an appropriate birthday gift is giving Matt a six-month sobriety coin. These serious heartaches might be intended to make Matt seem more sympathetic, but juxtaposed with a cadre of dick jokes, they just leave the audience feeling confused. The Virginity Hit is a sex comedy, not some mannered portrait of a misunderstood outsider, and Botko and Gurland are wannabe Larry Charles disciples, not Catherine Hardwicke circa Thirteen. As such, the picture just never coalesces; you can't show a tearful final video of a dying woman saying how sad she is that she won't be at her son's graduation and then later show that son going down on a blow-up doll. Let the laughs begin?
Botko and Gurland were probably hoping The Virginity Hit would wind up tracking Matt's coming of age -- instead it just shows him drifting along between potential taboo relationships with his stepsister (Krysta Rodriguez), the Internet girl in possession of the aforementioned blow-up doll and a porn star (Sunny Leone), until their screenplay forces him to reconsider his relationship with the still-pure Nicole. (The underlying message of The Virginity Hit is that virgins need other virgins to be happy.) The third act "twist" isn't just predictable; it comes without any real development. Because they break up so quickly into the film -- and because Bennett doesn't sell Matt's heartache as anything more than a case of the blues -- the audience is never given a reason to pull for Matt and Nicole. Their reconciliation is met with one big shrug.
In that regard, the bromance fails as well. Matt and Zack are brothers by adoption -- and best friends by the movie edict that states the fat kid must be friends with the skinny kid -- but they act like strangers pretending to be both. As actors, Bennett and Pearlman lack the inherent charm of their forebrothers Cera and Hill, and their improvised riffs (Botko admitted that much of the film was improvised around the loose framing of each scene, similar to the way Larry David does Curb Your Enthusiasm) fall mostly flat. The perils of allowing untrained actors to improvise are on full display here.
You'll likely get what you expect during The Virginity Hit -- jokes about Alzheimer's sex, pube-shaving and masturbation abound -- but why bother when the results are this wan? During that same Q&A, Botko said that he and Gurland decided to make this film after watching hours of YouTube videos. Good idea. You'll be happier saving your money and following their lead.