Out of all the movies out there about a teenager trying to lose his — and it almost always is “his” — virginity, often on a single night for one reason or another, I don’t think it’s ever been done quite the same was as it has in Teen Lust. So, what I’m saying, is that the film has that going for it. Does it have a lot else? Well, it’s sometimes pretty funny, and Cary Elwes turns in a scene-stealing performance. I suppose it’s not altogether a big failure or success. It exists in the middle. Not a waste of time, but not a must-watch, either.
Here’s the premise: Neil (Jesse Carere) has vowed to remain a virgin until he performs in a ceremony for his church, which happens to worship Satan. They do so very matter-of-factly, and even have back sales and bowling teams. Okay, funny. What Neil doesn’t know is that, on his 18th birthday, the church plans to sacrifice him. He knew there was a ceremony; he didn’t know it would result in his death. Sure enough, as soon as the dagger is brought out, Neil and his best friend, Matt (Daryl Sabara), run away. There wouldn’t be a movie, otherwise. Probably. Maybe Neil in Hell talking to Satan about virginity and cults would be funny. There, movie people. I just gave you a free sequel idea.
So, Neil and Matt spend the rest of the movie running away from people of the church, all while trying to find a woman who will have sex with Neil. Hijinks ensue, but it’s mostly hijinks you’ve seen before. The initial premise is unique — I don’t think I’ve seen another film with it before — but many of the situations are clichéd and not particularly interesting.
It’s too bad, because there’s a lot of potential to be had here. I mean, the whole devil-worshiping thing could have been used to say something about organized religion, but it’s presented as far too silly to take anywhere close to seriously. It doesn’t work as satire, but it’s also not always funny enough to even work as pure comedy. It feels like this premise was used just to raise the stakes and urgency; much more could have been done with it.
Some of the film is very funny. Cary Elwes plays the church’s leader, and he’s hilarious — and kind of scary — in that role. Remember how good Michael Parks was in Red State, even though the rest of that movie was terrible? Same sort of scenario here, except Teen Lust isn’t anywhere near that bad. I just make that comparison because the roles are kind of similar and it’s never the wrong time to make more fun of Red State. Sorry to the two people who enjoyed it.
What Teen Lust might have needed to do was go all-out with its premise. It often feels sanitized, like it at one point wanted a PG-13 rating, even though it’s a Canadian film — from one of The New Pornographers members, Blaine Thurier — and we don’t have PG-13 here. It’s profane, but it doesn’t have too many “extreme” situations, and it doesn’t really go very far when it comes to raunchy comedy. As a result, it feels like so many other movies. That’s a shame, because it’s a very good premise.
A very impressive cast — or, at least, a relatively well-known cast — has been assembled for Teen Lust, although a couple of the names are wasted. Jon Dore and Emmanuelle Vaugier play the parents of our lead, and get to do very little of value in the roles. Cary Elwes steals every scene he’s in, although his sidekick, played by Kristin Bauer van Straten, gets a couple of good lines in. Daryl Sabara is very funny as the more outgoing teenager, and Jesse Carere works as a shy leading character who grows a bit as the film progresses. Potentially facing death can do that to a person.
Teen Lust is a moderately successful comedy that has a lot of untapped potential. Had it used its intriguing premise to say something, or had it been taken to a greater extreme, it could have risen above other teen sex comedies. As it is, it feels very much like the norm. It has some good actors, and Cary Elwes steals the show as a satanic cult leader, but that doesn’t make it funny. There are some laughs, and a couple of hilarious sequences, but Teen Lust isn’t much more than a distraction movie.