Locally produced, kindhearted comedy premieres

Arthur Bennett is off to college and on a mission.

The 18-year-old (Jordan Brodess) has finally escaped his smart-mouthed sister (Magen Maddox), an awkward and generally uninvolved dad (Darryl Cox), and a overprotective, germ-phobic mom (Judith Pender) always at the ready with hand sanitizer and advice about bowel regularity.

One last irritating trip in the family van behind him, Arthur checks into Mid Central State University and starts his new life, eagerly hoping to shed the toil and torment of his dweeby adolescence and move on to more pressing matters: namely, women.

When word about Arthur’s virginal lips gets out ” thanks to his husky, shameless roommate, Andy (Dustin Patterson) ” opportunity abounds. Tips, advice and sorority coeds seemingly intrigued by the idea of being the inaugural kiss lurk around every campus corner, but Arthur is determined to make the first one count, ideally with Erin (Whitney Proctor), a cute brunette he spied on his first day at college. Along the way, his new buddies offer advice, alcohol and comedic distraction.

STALKS PREY
Pre-law student Lenny (Chris Baldwin) straps on the tennis racquet to play it straight against the usually psychotic Barry (Bart Keller), a militant soldier/student who stalks prey from the trees and lurks around wearing camouflage and night-vision goggles. Arthur and company are navigated around campus by Jack (Matt Altobelli), the connected and charismatic, too-cool-for-school resident adviser and party liaison who offers advice, acceptance and social protection.

“The Art of Kissing” is an earnest and charming comedy made by two recent University of Oklahoma graduates. The feature-length movie was filmed last year in Norman, largely on the OU campus, where it premieres at 7 p.m. Monday, in the Oklahoma Memorial Union’s Meacham Auditorium.

Director Joe Campo and producer Ursula Devine will attend Monday’s free screening. The filmmakers, now living and working in Los Angeles, both graduated from OU in 2008; Campo with a bachelor’s from the drama department, and Devine with a master’s in professional writing from the Gaylord College of Journalism & Mass Communication.

The low-budget film doesn’t offer a ton of cinematic surprises, but it’s funny and warmhearted. Minus a few references, including a repeating Internet-porn gag about “teenage amputee cheerleaders,” it’s the kind of after-school film you’d find on Disney or Nickelodeon ” which doesn’t speak to the maturity of the writing, acting or direction, but rather the general appeal and sincere subject matter.

Securing funding on their own, Campo and Devine found a script written by Greg Sandquist, an actor who has had small roles in a few films and TV shows.

Much of the best writing in “Art of Kissing” comes with dialogue between Arthur and himself ” “I wish I were kelp,” he murmurs while perusing a magazine picture of some beach babe ” and mini-monologues from Jack, a character seemingly inspired by Jason Lee’s Brodie in “Mallrats.”

With its universal message and quirky characters, it’s easy to embrace “The Art of Kissing,” a good-natured, low-budget comedy filmed and produced here in Oklahoma. “Joe Wertz

Joe Wertz

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