Cleveland's Rocks

Parker Posey and Paul Rudd get their OH faces on

So you know how Parker Posey nearly always plays sarcastic, uptight smokers? In The Oh in Ohio, she finally stretches a bit: here, she's a sarcastic, uptight career woman . . . who doesn't smoke! Also, she wears her hair down, whereas it's usually pulled back into some kind of tightly wound style more synonymous with being uptight. She's a natural looker, and she must love the opportunity to finally show it.

Pretty much every character in the movie thinks she's the hottest woman in Cleveland too, and they envy the hell out of Jack (Paul Rudd), the lucky guy married to Posey's character, Priscilla. What they don't know is that she has never had an orgasm, and even though Jack admits she's great in the sack, he's being driven to drink by the fact that there is no known way to satisfy her. (Give him credit for sensitivity, at least; many guys wouldn't care.)

There's also a big career disparity between the two. Jack's a high school biology teacher who fakes coughs to disguise the popping open of a brown-bagged beer can, while Priscilla's job is to woo big business to Cleveland ("What was once the mistake by the lake is now the roar by the shore," she says). Her work might be a lot easier—and her marriage less in jeopardy—if she were to realize what may be the region's biggest selling point: that the age of consent in Ohio is only 16, which Jack's star pupil, Kristen (Mischa Barton), knows well.

So while Jack discovers surprising empathy between the thighs of a teenager, and eventually moves into his own place at the Manly Arms apartments, Priscilla attends a class on vaginal appreciation—taught by Liza Minnelli—and in short order becomes addicted to vibrators. Neither Jack nor Priscilla appears as bothered by the collapse of their marriage as one might expect.

First-time feature director Billy Kent seems proud of the fact that his movie deals with sex in such frank fashion. But if you're going to brag about your explicit sexuality, it doesn't quite work to go out of your way avoiding skin. Every actor here probably has a no-nudity clause, but for a film like this, it might have been better for the story—and the box office—to find a cast that doesn't.

There's one notable exception: nobody in America has any need to see Danny DeVito naked, though the sight of him portraying a serious romantic character is probably as welcome for him as it is for the audience (dumpy smart-alecks need love too). As Wayne the Pool Guy, he is perhaps slightly less inherently sexy than Larry the Cable Guy, but he certainly demonstrates the ability to satisfy a woman.

Also winningly cast against type: Keith David, who is best known for his ominous animation voice-overs and ultra-serious military-type roles; here he plays a horny gym teacher who also happens to be the guidance counselor ("I'm here to hear!").

Of interest to many will be the student-teacher relationship between Jack and Kristen, which is portrayed as a boon to both of them, even though such things are generally frowned upon in real life and Fox News. Kent portrays the romance as being entirely initiated by Kristen, who sees that Jack is in pain and volunteers her brand of sexual healing. Taken as a whole, though, The Oh in Ohio seems to advocate that women need to get with older men, as Priscilla does with DeVito's Wayne.

Perhaps director Kent deserves credit for his decision to focus on characters rather than flash, but the result is a visually uninteresting movie. (Particularly uninspired is the character shorthand that has Rudd beating up the school vending machine on a regular basis, a device Over the Hedge handled better.) Previously known for making commercials and MTV parodies of commercials, Kent presumably knows how to deliver the glossy style on demand, and more compelling cinematography and locations (the movie was shot entirely in Cleveland) should not have been out of the question here. When DeVito's character is revealed to be the owner of the mother of all water slides, you figure that's where all the set budget went. And it sure is pretty.

THE OH IN OHIO WAS DIRECTED BY BILLY KENT; WRITTEN BY ADAM WIERBIANSKI, BASED ON A STORY BY SARAH BIRD AND KENT; AND PRODUCED BY MIRANDA BAILEY AND FRANCEY GRACE. AT EDWARDS SOUTH COAST VILLAGE, SANTA ANA.

 
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