Setter’s ‘Spective: Taking Overly Whimsical Films to Task

Just because something’s unique doesn’t mean it’s any good.

That was in evidence big time during my recent viewing of The Oh in Ohio, a 2006 “comedy” directed by Billy Kent and starring Paul Rudd, Parker Posey and a whole lot of other talented people who should’ve run far, far away after reading the script. The story–which has something to do with Cleveland and one woman’s quest for an orgasm–was so self-consciously whimsical that it became grating.

And I think I know what bugged me so much about it.

Watching this movie was like getting poked by a vaudevillian with a stick every time someone bizarre-looking appeared on stage. Here’s an eccentric sex expert played by Liza Minnelli. Here’s Danny DeVito portraying a local pool contractor with ridiculously long hair. And, of course, here’s Posey and Rudd doing their thing as unsatisfied marrieds who can’t always get what they want. It seemed like you were supposed to laugh at their characters’ quirks and odd behavior, but they’re really just costumes–unfilled with any substance.

I needed definition in this movie, but I didn’t get it.

So the question remains: Why are there so many films out there that confuse uniqueness with quality? Frankly, I’d rather see a derivative flick that’s entertaining than an unusual picture without a script. True, we live in a time when films are taking risks, and that’s fabulous, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of credibility. I didn’t believe one minute of TOiO, though I did during another movie with a ludicrous premise: North by Northwest. Why? Because it was brilliantly done–and it didn’t try too hard. Or at least it didn’t seem like it.

Great films, to me, feel easy–like a Hall of Fame pitcher throwing 100 miles an hour. And it doesn’t matter if they don’t break new ground; they’re still enjoyable to watch.

Maybe there’s some merit in not being different after all.

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