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At first, Eurotrip seems like just another mindless teen sex comedy. The opening credits run over a montage of flight safety instructions that are basically jokes about sex and vomiting. Mildly clever, but not promising anything we haven't seen before.

All right, it's also true that the movie has a pretty simple structure and, plot-wise, really doesn't have anything we haven't seen before. But after a quick set-up, something strange happens. Writing/directing team Jeff Schaffer (the credited director), Alec Berg and David Mandel let the jokes move at a relaxed pace, building and actually paying off. Though they really are still basically jokes about sex and other bodily functions, they have a freshness to them. Never mind. That's over-intellectualizing the case.

In truth, I could not believe how much this movie does not suck.

Part of it comes from this being the rare teen movie with leads that seem like actual teens, not refugees from the WB. (Although I guess technically Michelle Trachtenberg is a WB survivor, she was 17 when this movie was shot and looks it.) This youth makes their eagerness and naivete believable, and goes a long way to somehow buffering the hilarious tastelessness of some of the jokes. Some may be offended by the two lead guys' homophobia, but it's in character and they pay for it more than once. Besides, it provides an excuse for Fred Armisen to play "Creepy Italian Guy," and once you've seen that, all is forgiven.

On the afternoon of his high school graduation, Scott (Scott Mechlowicz) gets dumped by his girlfriend Fiona (Kristin Kreuk, actually using more than two expressions). The day gets worse from there. Not only is the break-up caught on videotape by his mom and played over and over by his little brother Bert (Nial Iskhakov), it turns out that Fiona's other boyfriend (Matt Damon) has immortalized his shame in song.

Only his German e-mail friend Mieke offers solace, until a drunken Scott fears the anonymous cyberpal is putting the moves on him. Before passing out, Scott flames Mieke. Too bad his German isn't good enough to realize that Mieke is a girl's name, and boy, is she hot.

Thus Scott and his best friend Cooper (Jacob Pitts) must journey to Berlin to undo the drunken damage, find Scott's soul mate (that would be Mieke, played voluptuously by Jessica Boehrs, a German pop star) and incidentally have kinky European sex. Along the way they join a couple of other friends from high school (Trachtenberg and Travis Wester), dubbed by Scott "the worst twins ever" due to their barely seeming related. Oh, how that will come back to haunt them.

Again, pretty typical fare, except that the jokes just keep coming out of left field and playing against expectations, starting with Damon's ode to Scott, an irritatingly catchy punk song that returns again and again, long after the movie ends. Zombie movies will be deflated forever by a nude beach sequence. What could have been a tired exercise with a face-off against a French mime turns into an unexpected tour de force of physical comedy. Yeah, you've seen the robot man in the commercials, but thankfully, none of its true brilliance is betrayed.

Much of the film will strike some as offensive. Catholics, in particular, will have a bone to pick with the filmmakers. However, it's unlikely they'll have made it far enough in to see the Vatican scenes, having been driven away by the cheerful Aryan child doing a Hitler impression. Kudos to Eurotrip for being willing to go anywhere for a joke, and doing it well.

Even when jokes fall flat, and some do, the movie soon picks up steam again. Like a Seinfeld episode, bits reincorporate subtly, no surprise since the writing team actually did cut its teeth on that show. For the sake of time, a few clearly treasured jokes had to be cut and inserted back into the end credits, including a couple that left in would have completed the sacred comedy rule of three. I'm actually looking forward to the DVD release in order to hopefully see the deleted scenes put back.

Watch the USA network, and you'll see a lot of actors in teen comedies that sunk from view shortly afterward. It seems hard to imagine that happening to this cast. The main four are all likable and talented. In particular, Pitts seems a real find with great timing.

Overall, Eurotrip is an unexpected surprise, and absolutely the best of this week's releases. Most importantly, it's the kind of movie with gags you'll be referencing with your friends over and over when you're hanging out together. And that's certainly worth your nine bucks and then some.


Derek McCaw

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