The Last American Virgin

In DVD/Blu-ray by Sam Haysom

Anyone who hasn’t seen an early 1980’s American high school comedy before could do worse than to imagine a cross between Back to the Future and American Pie – the former will give you an idea of the outfits (although The Last American Virgin definitely has more in the way of multicoloured, skin-tight vests), while the latter will give you an idea of the film’s silly plot (which features an abundance of drugs, ridiculous situations and awkward sexual encounters).

The only problem is, in the case of The Last American Virgin, things aren’t quite that simple. The film defies easy classification. While it does start off as a nudity-packed, slapstick teen comedy, it takes a sudden, interesting turn towards drama near the end in a shift that – although ambitious – it doesn’t quite manage to pull off.

The plot itself is pretty standard stuff – awkward high school teen Gary (Lawrence Monoson) falls for the new girl Karen (Diane Franklin), but his best intentions are thwarted by the sleazier intentions of his friend Rick (Steve Antin). Although the film does look a touch dated now (especially those vests – the main characters tuck them into their jeans, and everything), that doesn’t take away from the fact that some of the scenes are pretty funny. Writer/Director Boaz Davidson has an easy knack for moving his characters from one embarrassing situation to the next, then sitting back and watching as they try (mostly without success) to untangle themselves. The boys’ attempts to covertly find an STI cure in a hardware store is one highlight, as is the scene where Gary humiliates himself in front of his parents (and their extended group of family friends) after returning home drunk from a party.

With its style of awkward teenage humour and moments of slapstick, it’s easy to see how The Last American Virgin may have influenced the likes of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (not to mention the high school comedies – like the American Pie series – that are still churned out today).

The thing that sets The Last American Virgin apart, though, is that it feels like it wants to be something more. As the film progresses and the main character is forced to grow up, the humour is gradually replaced by moments of drama as Gary gets shoved into the adult world, and the film shows its serious side. Unfortunately, this transition isn’t smooth enough. The subjects touched upon in the film’s final Act don’t feel as though they’re handled thoroughly, which leads to them appearing too much like out-of-place dramatic devices that don’t fit with the film’s overall tone.

Like the final scene, it’s an ambitious attempt to break from the genre and try something different, but in the end it doesn’t quite work.