I can say without hesitation that Premature is the best movie about ejaculation-triggered time travel that I have ever seen. Sure, that compliment doesn’t really mean much, but you have to admire a flick that takes that ridiculous, gross set-up and really runs with it – all the while building an endearing cast of characters and handing each of them consistently raucous, over-the-top material. To put it another way, Premature is far, far better than a film mashing together Groundhog Day and American Pie has any right to be, and I commend it for that.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Dan Beers, making his feature directorial and screenwriting debut, for looking past the immature surface of Premature to find the belly laughs and ample heart hiding just underneath. Everyone remembers what a rough time high school was, and Beers captures that remarkably well, from the useless school nurses up through the superficial dream girls. Beers and co-writer Mathew Harawitz also ensure that Premature feels like a very modern take on the teen sex comedy, treating its teenage protagonists like actual teenagers (sure, they’re horny, but there’s refreshingly more on their plates than just that) and slipping in some slyly subversive quips that a film in this genre would never have gone for a decade ago. The only pity is that they occasionally give into MacFarlane-esque stereotypes (the dorky Arthur, played with smarmy self-importance by Adam Riegler, is probably the film’s weakest link).
Still, Premature succeeds when it comes to protagonist Rob (John Karna), whose inability to control his embarrassing junk gives him the strange ability to relive the same terrible day over and over again à la Groundhog Day. And what a day – after being woken up by his mother the night after a wet dream, Rob goes into panic mode while preparing for a crucial, doomed interview with a forlorn Georgetown rep (John Tudyk). Also on the docket? Avoiding getting bullied by the volleyball team, managing relationships with his dirty-minded best friend Stanley (Craig Roberts) and long-time pal Gabrielle (Katie Findlay), and making it to a “study session” that holds the promise of much more with the horny school babe Angela (Carlton Young) but always ends with the same unfortunately sticky end. And of course, Rob’s strange new ability to begin the day over as soon as that happens throws a monkey wrench in the works – until he begins to realize just how much he can get away with given the constant ability to reset.
Somehow, despite all his crazy, sex-obsessed shenanigans, Rob remains a funny and engaging lead throughout. That’s a credit both to Beers and Harawitz’s writing and to Karna’s performance. Expect to see the actor in a lot more after Premature – with great comic timing and a goofy charisma, he’s the perfect underdog hero for raunchy teen comedies like these. That we see him relive the same day repeatedly without it getting tiresome just speaks to Karna’s enjoyable screen presence.
The other stars are also terrific. Roberts displays a tremendous knack for filthy-minded improv, striking a delicate balance between absurd raunch and dweeby eccentricity. Meanwhile, Findlay plays the gorgeous and whip-smart best friend we know Rob will end up with in the end with such wry charm and sangfroid that it almost strains believability that he’d ever go after Angela in the first place (but then again, remembering the literally endless stupidities of high school, maybe that part’s not so tough to buy after all). In more limited roles, Young nails Angela’s air-headed personality, and Tudyk milks his sensitive rep for all the humor he’s worth (which, it turns out, is quite a lot).
Another thing Premature has going for it is that it doesn’t last long (sorry, couldn’t resist). At a brisk 93 minutes, it doesn’t wear you down with too many trips back in time or completely contrived and stupid plot developments. You can see where the movie’s going almost immediately, but Beers and Harawitz ensure that even a predictable road is brief and filled with near-constant gags, including some that American Pie‘s writers wish they could have come up with (and others that less-modern franchise probably wouldn’t have dared to touch with a ten-foot pole). By the time its climax has arrived, Premature has earned the right to slip some genuinely romantic, realistic moments into the mix.
The teen sex comedy is a tough genre to master. Too much raunchy humor, and you’re left with a joyless, robotically dirty comedy like The To-Do List, but leave out enough R-rated gut-busters and you end up with something toothless and unstimulating like Cougar Club. (Yes, I don’t know when or why it happened, but I watched Cougar Club. And I regret it. A lot.) Premature expertly navigates between those two extremes, delivering a film that marries R-rated, bust-a-gut laughs with a surprisingly good-natured, tender heart. It’s one of my favorite entries in the genre since the original Pie.
The rare teen comedy with serious raunch and heart, Premature is much, much better than any movie about ejaculation-triggered time travel has any right to be.