Sunny has always strived to be the good girl. The only daughter of an apparently all-seeing, South Asian single mom, she comes home to questions like, “I am told you received a 96 on your exam. What happened?” She’s an outsider at her South Dakota high school, not just because of her heritage but also her frumpy fashions, ridiculed by her peers for “dressing like an American Girl doll.” Winningly played by newcomer Kuhoo Verma, Sunny’s the wide-eyed, well-meaning protagonist of director Natalie Morales’ screamingly funny “Plan B,” a welcome and quietly radical revision of the teenage sex comedy that starts streaming on Hulu this weekend. It’s a filthy farce with an unexpectedly warm heart and two lovable characters at its core. You’ll fall for Sunny as soon as you see the conscientiousness with which she turns her yellow stuffed elephant away to face the wall before she begins masturbating to her anatomy textbook.
Her only friend is Lupe, who with her punk-rock fashions and streaked hair chafes against her devoutly religious household, waiting until she gets out the door before attaching her clip-on nose ring. It’s a star-making performance by former Disney Channel kid Victoria Moroles, who gets a shot in at her former employer when she describes what used to be “Netflix and chill” as “Disney Plus and thrust.” Lupe’s the chaos agent here, inviting their entire class over for a party when Sunny’s mom is out of town on a work trip. The idea is getting her best friend drunk enough to finally make a move on her crush, a moppet-haired teen (Michael Provost) so sensitive he plays hockey in a cardigan. Alas, things fall apart rather spectacularly and Sunny instead ends up surrendering her virginity to the school’s most annoying evangelical Christian, who after some initial confusion as to what goes where, promptly finishes fast and runs home to pray.
It’s one of the most deglamorized deflowerings since “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” with a gross-out gag later revealing there was some slippage that went undiscovered during their 90 seconds of conjugal bliss. No sweat, this is why the Plan B pill was invented. Unfortunately, South Dakota has a “conscience clause” allowing pharmacists to refuse selling legal birth control products to minors if doing so violates their beliefs. “Super Troopers” star Jay Chandrasekhar explains it all from behind the counter with perfectly smug piety, sending Sunny and Lupe on a 70-mile road trip to Rapid City so they can get the pill from the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic. Complications ensue.
Tartly scripted by Prathiksha Srinivasan and Joshua Levy, “Plan B” is a sort of “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” by way of “Porky’s” and “American Pie,” but with an inclusivity seldom seen in teen sex comedies. (The presence of “Harold & Kumar” producers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg looms large over the proceedings.) The movie is constantly trying to upend our expectations of the genre, pointedly reframing obligatory tropes like the raging kegger and ladies’ locker room scene to subversive effect. There’s something liberating about letting the “good girls” talk dirty about their desires for a change, and one particular period joke almost made me fall out of my chair. It’s no accident that the only nudity we see is full-frontal male, and in a sly retort to decades of movies leering at girls getting changed, all that’s revealed here is a loving look at Lupe’s defiantly unshaved armpits.
Given the subject matter, there are a lot of ways this movie could have gone wrong. In fact they did, in last year’s HBO Max original “Unpregnant,” a ghastly road-trip comedy about two teen girls crossing state lines for an abortion that took none of the underlying subject matter seriously in the slightest. (That character could have been traveling for a college interview and the script would barely have required a rewrite.) “Plan B” works as well as it does because it keeps the outrage set to simmer throughout. The omnipresent, often unthinking slights to Sunny and Lupe’s autonomy as young women are only compounded by their status as minorities, something the movie never belabors but instead incorporates into the comedy with a richly lived-in cultural specificity. (There’s a great running gag in which Sunny and some other characters live in fear of “the Indian Mafia,” because in such a white part of the country all the South Asians are bound to know each other somehow.)
Director Morales isn’t quite able to pull off some of the broader slapstick sequences. “Plan B” is best when the characters are riffing and running their mouths, or during smaller-scaled bits like the sublime sight gag of two Gen Z kids out of cell phone range, trying to read a map. (“You know Westeros like the back of your hand,” an exasperated Lupe snaps.) But most importantly, you really come to care about these two girls and wish they were growing up in a culture where it was easier for them to make mistakes. There’s no sane reason one smarmy pharmacist should hold such sway over Sunny’s future, but a look at the latest headlines suggests things could get a lot more difficult for these young women real soon.
"Plan B" starts streaming on Hulu this Friday, May 28.