Equal parts bold experiment (in sustaining a YouTube aesthetic for an entire film), and shallow redux of well-worn teenage sex comedy tropes, “The Virginity Hit” reps a regression for producers (and Funny or Die honchos) Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. Returns for the Columbia release should be decent enough, though split sharply on generational lines: Those with the stomach for 90 slapdash minutes of nonstop crudity and cruelty will be tickled, while their elders will likely despair at these youngsters’ lack of a moral center or ability to hold a camera steady.
Shot entirely on handheld digital cameras and edited like a series of Internet video clips, the pic has a simple premise: Four New Orleans-based, YouTube-obsessed teenagers — adoptive brothers Matt (Matt Bennett) and Zack (Zack Pearlman), and best friends Jacob (Jacob Davich) and Justin (Justin Kline), none of whom are distinguished much beyond their obnoxiousness and propensity for extreme on-camera oversharing — make a pact on a female-shaped bong that they will mark the losses of their respective virginities with a celebratory hit.
Opening montage shows the latter three commemorating their first conquests, while uber-nebbish Matt hopes to complete the quartet with girlfriend Nicole (Nicole Weaver). When word reaches the boys that Nicole has been cheating, they plan a videotaped comeuppance that would likely get them arrested in any recognizable universe, and that backfires entirely.
Now fueled by a desire for revenge as well as lust, Matt embarks on a furious series of follow-up efforts to cash in his V-card — with a porn star, a suspiciously available stranger and even his adopted sister — egged on and sabotaged all the while by the borderline sadistic, camera-wielding Zack.
The hijinks and humiliations that ensue in writer-directors Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko’s pic are undeniably lurid, but there’s an inescapable sense of joylessness to the endless procession of teenage drinking, drug-taking, grainy nudity and hard-R sex talk. Superior films of this type (“Superbad,” “American Pie”) may contain just as much debauchery, but they’re grounded by the notion that much of this boorish behavior is predicated on teen boys’ loneliness, insecurity and boundless sexual confusion. Granted few softer qualities to mitigate their all-consuming lust and hostility, “The Virginity Hit’s” heroes simply come across as heartless sexual-predators-in-training.
Nor are things helped by the disconnect between the film’s verite aesthetics and the preposterousness of its story: The protags seem to have limitless access to money, hotel rooms, expensive video equipment and hot girls willing not only to sleep with them despite their charmlessness and bad skin, but also to share the details on YouTube clips. On a technical level, the pic is more watchable than its videoclip gimmick may suggest, with some well-framed, high-quality digital shots creeping in among the cameraphone jumbles, though most viewers’ eyeballs will be exhausted before the end.