The road-trip drama Who’s Driving Doug is earnest but not overly sweet — a blessing for a film with built-in sentimentality traps.
R.J. Mitte, who played Walter White Jr. on Breaking Bad, stars as the title character, an L.A. college student living with muscular dystrophy. Doug does well for himself, but he needs someone to drive his van. Enter Scott (YouTube comedy star Ray William Johnson), who’s jokey and a bit frantic. On day two of their new partnership, Scott promises Doug adventure and excitement if he’ll let him use the van to attend to an urgent personal matter in Las Vegas. Doug agrees, and off they go, along with Doug’s best friend (and secret crush) Stephanie (Paloma Kwiatkowski).
It takes screenwriter Michael Carnick and director David Michael Conley, both making feature debuts, a bit too long to set the trio on its way. But the drive passes quickly, and soon Doug is doing familiar Vegas things, including, in the film’s best scene, losing his virginity to an empathetic prostitute (Shanti Lowry, excellent).
It doesn’t exactly ring true when the nature of Scott’s personal crisis is finally revealed, but the ache in Johnson’s performance, and Mitte’s equivalent response to it, give this formulaic tale a surprising, melancholy resonance.
Who’s Driving Doug
Directed by David Michael Conley
Opens February 26, Cinema Village