“Sex Ed” is a likable little comedy that features such a well-conceived and portrayed main character it makes up for the film’s slender concept and leaps in logic.
Director Isaac Feder and writer Bill Kennedy, making their feature debuts here, warmly and humorously depict the human sexual condition. That’s not to say things don’t get plenty raunchy — it kind of goes with the movie’s territory. But the picture’s equitable, ingratiating tone keeps us invested instead of distanced.
Meet Ed Cole (Haley Joel Osment), a 23-year-old virgin and would-be math instructor hired to oversee an after-school detention program at a Florida middle school. Although the earnest, pudgy Ed may be a bust with the ladies, he knows his way around an anatomy chart and, realizing his pubescent students lack some basic facts of life, he becomes a self-appointed sex education teacher. (Given the micromanagement of most public schools and the absence of other teachers or serious administrators here, we’re clearly dealing in a fantasy land.)
There are complications, of course, especially once a local reverend (Chris Williams) weighs in. But Ed’s caring, forthright approach starts breaking down the barriers with his perhaps too-naive students. At the same time, his confidence builds as a young adult-in-progress.
Ed falls for his student Tito’s (Kevin Hernandez) older sister, Pilar (Lorenza Izzo), who tests Ed’s notions of what it really means to be a man — the film’s actual thematic thrust.
Osment, who brings great openness and dignity to his potentially awkward role, receives strong support from costars Glen Powell (terrific), Castille Landon, Retta (from TV’s “Parks & Recreation”), Matt Walsh and young Isaac White.
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.