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‘Sex Appeal’ and how teen sex comedies have grown up

A welcome change.

Sex Appeal highlights how much teen sex comedies have changes over the years. The Hulu original is about a high school girl named Avery Hansen-White (Mika Abdalla) who is ready to lose her virginity. Before her first time, she recruits her childhood friend Larson (Jake Short) to help master her sexuality. It is pretty obvious what will happen from here. The two will eventually fall in love, have a falling out after a misunderstanding, before making up and getting back together. The movie ends with everyone happy and together. 

Except that is not how Sex Appeal plays out.

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Over the course of the “experiment” as Avery refers to it, emotions inevitably come into play. However, Sex Appeal constantly surprises the audience when it comes to how the characters deal with these feelings. In a word, the teen sex comedy is mature. Yes, Sex Appeal has the raunchy humor and there is plenty of jokes involving pictures of bodily parts, but that is part and parcel for the genre. Where the film really stands out is how its characters handle what they are going through. As teen comedies go, it is much more realistic than similar films.

The main theme of the movie is overcoming fear. It is most evident in the main storyline, but may be more poignant in what happens between Larson and Avery. There is the falling in love, falling apart, and grand gesture, but the outcome will surprise audiences. Best of all, what happens is not done for shock value or even to prove a point. It makes sense based on the history of the characters. It also leads to  a much more satisfying conclusion.

In addition, Sex Appeal is able to take on topical issues and still joke about them. So called “woke” culture has been the butt of jokes for years, but it often comes at the expense of others. Here, similar ground is mined for laughs, but it is done in a way that is not making fun of anyone. It is the difference between making a joke about someone’s shirt being too small versus saying they are too fat for it.

Overall, it makes for a story that is laugh out loud funny, heartwarming, and provides a sense of relatable nostalgia. Sex Appeal never punches above its weight -there are plenty of dick and vagina jokes – but it does not have to resort to the lowest common denominator either. What results is a smart teen sex comedy that still provides lighthearted fun.

Sex Appeal premieres on Hulu January 14

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