When Amy Heckerling’s Fast Times At Ridgemont High kicked off the teen sex comedy craze of the 1980s, it did so with a subplot about a young woman getting an abortion. Yet even as that movie influenced decades of comedies about Brads and Spicolis, it’s only recently that a woman’s right to choose has finally reentered the teen comedy lexicon. The winning new high school buddy romp Plan B joins Unpregnant (and, on the more dramatic end, Never Rarely Sometimes Always) as a road trip movie about two loyal best friends facing the challenges of a sexist health care system. And though this particular trip hits a few creative speed bumps along the way, it’s buoyed by great comedic specificity and two (hopefully) star-making performances.
Directed by Natalie Morales, Plan B centers on high school besties Sunny (Kuhoo Verma) and Lupe (Victoria Moroles) and their hunt for the morning-after pill. What should be a simple trip to the pharmacy gets more complicated when they’re turned away under South Dakota’s “conscience clause”—a real-life law that allows pharmacists to refuse to dispense emergency-contraception drugs if they are morally or religiously opposed to them. The regressive policy sends straitlaced Sunny and slacker Lupe on a madcap journey to Planned Parenthood. And since the nearest clinic is over three hours away, that leaves plenty of time for some raucous, R-rated pit stops en route.
With its proudly, provocatively raunchy look at life as a teenage girl, Plan B will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Olivia Wilde’s similarly bawdy Booksmart. But where that film felt like a female reclamation of the Superbad template, this one leans a little more toward the antics of Pineapple Express. Morales delivers several drug-laced pseudo action scenes, including one of the most audacious penis-related set pieces in recent memory. The best of these sequences skewers the everyday sexism and racism that Sunny and Lupe face on the sketchy backroads of South Dakota. The worst ones strain even comedic credulity; this a shaggy film that could use some streamlining.
Where Plan B earns the Booksmart comparison is in the stellar chemistry between its leads. Like Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever, Verma and Moroles have a wonderfully lived-in dynamic. Guided by Morales—an actor-turned-director who’s famous for her own deadpan comedic reactions on shows like Parks & Rec and Abby’s—Verma and Moroles lock into a breezy comedic rhythm that’s a joy to behold. They’re talented enough to salvage a rote line of dialogue or a so-so joke with off-kilter delivery. And they bring real emotional depth to the film’s look at the challenges of being a teenage girl, too. By any rights, this film should launch them both as breakout stars.
As is so often the case with raunchy comedies, there’s ultimately a sentimental streak to the script by Prathiksha Srinivasan and Joshua Levy. Just as the road trip shenanigans start to wear thin, the movie takes a welcome detour toward a small-town concert, where Lupe’s character is movingly deepened, while Sunny spends a rom-com-y few hours with her crush, Hunter (Michael Provost), a dorky hunk whose appeal hinges on the fact that he plays field hockey in a cardigan. (“He’s like an athletic librarian,” Sunny sighs.) The Sunny/Hunter scenes, in particular, offer a quietly revolutionary portrayal of how a budding teen couple might talk about their past sexual experiences. Plan B lets its female characters be raunchy, but it also lets its male ones be sensitive and genuinely sex-positive, which feels like its own milestone in the teen movie genre.
The best moments of Plan B lean into the specificity of its world, like the strange subcultures of South Dakotan Christianity or Sunny’s fear that a gossipy network she’s dubbed the “Indian mafia” will report back to her mom. In that sense, the film isn’t repeating a comedic template so much as expanding it. So while it’s tempting to put it in competition with other edgy teen girl comedies like Booksmart, Unpregnant, and Blockers, they’re all just racing down the same road together, trying to make up for lost time.