Maybe the most impressive thing about Plan B, a teen sex comedy coming to Hulu this week, is how many different movies it manages to homage (if not directly rip off) at the same time. On one level, it’s like Can’t Hardly Wait, if it focused exclusively on Lauren Ambrose’s Denise Fleming, trying to find the morning after pill following her unexpected hook up with Seth Green’s tragic poseur Kenny Fisher. On another, it’s Booksmart if the leads weren’t caucasian, it’s Harold And Kumar except with girls, and it’s one of those sad slogs about two girls trying to get an abortion that hits the arthouse every few years, except a comedy.
Plan B, directed by Parks & Rec actress Natalie Morales in her first feature (with a script by Joshua Levy and Prathiksha Srinivasan) is maybe so busy riffing, ‘shipping, flipping, and gender-swapping other stories that it neglects to find its own. It ends up being pleasant enough and occasionally pretty funny but not quite a romp.
Kuhoo Verma and Victoria Moroles play Sunny and Lupe, horny Indian-American nerd and goth Mexican-American best friends in South Dakota. They both have conservative parents — Lupe, a single dad played by Jacob Vargas who makes her wipe off her black lipstick before she goes to school, and Sunny a single mom who’s usually out at work while Sunny is home double flicking herself to the sight of an anatomical penis drawing in a health textbook (kids do still this? can’t they watch amputee porn on their smart fridges now?). The drawing isn’t the only exposed penis in Plan B, whose unabashed raunch is by far its best quality. It’s also the only part of Plan B that doesn’t feel overly mannered.
Sunny has a crush on a lank-haired cardigan enthusiast named Hunter, played by Michael Provost, while Lupe pines for a musician who lives in a different town (you wouldn’t know them, they go to a different school). A disastrous sexual experience in a bathroom compounded by their town’s lack of a Planned Parenthood sends Sunny and Lupe on a wild-pill chase/journey of self-discovery that will test their friendship, bring old secrets to light, expose our nation’s unconscionable lack of healthcare for teen girls, and blah blah blah.
If it sounds like a slick pitch, it is. Plan B has a tendency to feel more like a series of great pitches than a movie in its own right. It obviously draws heavily from the Harold And Kumar playbook (Harold And Kumar screenwriters Hayden Schlossberg and Jon Hurwitz are even among Plan B‘s team of producers), which isn’t a terrible thing, but that movie, despite its occasional earnest elements about a Korean and Indian guy just trying to get along in a Caucasian world, was about two dopey stoners trying to get a burger. For all Plan B‘s aspirations of progressivism, we still seem to demand that our teen girl protagonists be not just goofy and dopey and stoned, but also clever and plucky and open-minded, committed to dismantling the patriarchy. Which tends to induce applause more than it does laughter. Plan B is occasionally really funny (Verma and Moroles have solid chemistry) and occasionally has a nice message, but it almost never does both at the same time (with creaky transitions between the two).
Some local color as more than just a backdrop probably would’ve gone a long way. Plan B is more specific in its pitch than in its execution. It’s set in South Dakota but you never really get a sense of South Dakota as more than “some conservative place,” or that the filmmakers know more about it than where it exists on a map.
Known-ish comedic actors show up for occasional kooky cameos, like Jay Chandrasekhar from Super Troopers as the Indian pharmacist and Edi Patterson, who’s so brilliant in The Righteous Gemstones, as the truck stop cashier. There’s an extended bit where one of the characters does bad drugs. Basically, all the scenes you could close your eyes and imagine being in a teen sex comedy are also in this one.
Still, a lot of Plan B‘s jokes about dicks, buttholes, bodily fluids, and toilets are pretty decent, including the one that ends the movie. It’s always nice to see a comedy nail its closer. What Plan B needed in order to truly sing was to get personal. Instead, it mostly offers a facsimile of it.