General Education (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
October 1, 2012 by Dennis Amith
“General Education” is a teen comedy/coming-of-age film that plays it a bit too safe with its characters and its overall plot. It’s an average film, not terrible, nor great but you can’t help but feel that it could have been much better.
TITLE: General Education
FILM RELEASE: 2012
DURATION: 85 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9 widescreen), English 5.1 HD Surround Sound
COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment
RATED: PG-13 (For Sex References and a Drug Related Gesture)
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Directed by Tom Morris
Written by Elliot Feld, Jaz Kalkat, Tom Morris
Produced by Elliot Feld, Jaz Kalkat, Kevin Liang, Tom Morris
Line Producer: Jennifer Glynn
Executive Producer: Kevin Matusow
Music by T.J. Hill
Cinematography by Brooks Ludwick
Edited by Tyler MacIntyre
Casting by Danielle Aufiero, Amber Horn
Production Design by Kristi Uribes
Art Direction by Christopher Corlette North
Costume Design by Erica Rice
Chris Sheffield as Levi Collins
Maiara Walsh as Katie
Sam Ayers as Samson
Skylan Brooks as Charles
Bobby Campo as Brian Collins
Seth Cassell as Shady Nick
Federico Dordei as Samuel Goldsteine
Janeane Garofalo as Gale Collins
Harvey Guillen as Andy
Stacey Hall as Officer Bob
Elaine Hendrix as Ms. Bradford
Tom Madden as Chad
Mercedes Masohn as Bebe
Susan McCarthy as Principle Lynch
Larry Miller as Rich Collins
McKaley Miller as Emily Collins
Rising stars Chris Sheffield (Transformers: Dark of the Moon) and Maiara Walsh (TV’s “Switched At Birth”) star in Director Tom Morris’ (Ship Wrecked Cove) coming-of-age comedy GENERAL EDUCATION, debuting on Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital October 2nd from Well Go USA. Levi Collins (Sheffield) is in jeopardy of losing his college scholarship after failing his science class in his final year of high school. Forced to attend summer school, he finds himself in class with his crush Katie (Walsh) and sparring with a strict teacher and bully. In order to hide his big secret from his parents, Levi must choose between preparing for a tennis tournament and a receiving proper education. The film also stars Janeane Garofalo (TV’s “24,” “The Larry Sanders Show”), Elaine Hendrix (Disney’s The Parent Trap), Larry Miller (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, TV’s “10 Things I Hate About You”) and McKaley Miller (upcoming The Iceman, TV’s “Hart of Dixie”).
Tom Morris has worked on quite a few films as a camera operator and has even written and directed several short films. But this time Morris joins writers Elliot Feld and Jaz Kalkat as co-writer and director of the coming-of-age comedy “General Education”.
The film would star veterans Larry Miller (“Pretty Woman”, “10 Things I Hate About You”, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”), Janeane Garofalo (“24”, “Mystery Men”, “Ratatouille”) and feature Chris Sheffield (“Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon”, “The Rookie”), Maiara Walsh (“Switched at Birth”, “Cory in the House”, “Desperate Housewives”, “Mean Girls 2”), Skylan Brooks (“Seven Pounds”, “Our Family Wedding”) and Elaine Hendrix (“The Parent Trap”, “90210”, “Superstar”).
“General Education” revolves around teenager Levi Collins (portrayed by Chris Sheffield), a teenager who’s parents want him to become a professional tennis player like his older brother Brian (portrayed by Bobby Campo). And he has been given a full scholarship to a university known for its tennis program.
His parents are thrilled about Levi being offered a scholarship, so badly to the point that Levi has been missing classes. But by missing his final exam due to a tennis match, he has flunked his science class taught by Ms. Bradford (portrayed by Elaine Hendrix).
And because of that “F”, he finds out from his friends at school and school employee Bebe (portrayed by Mercedes Masohn), a girl who went to school and liked his brother Brian, that he won’t be able to graduate from school.
And no graduation means no scholarship (free money to college) and knows that if he doesn’t graduate or get the scholarship, his parents will be upset with him. He finds out that there is one way he can graduate from school and that is attend summer school.
While attending summer school, Levi becomes attracted to Katie (portrayed by Maiara Walsh), meanwhile getting tormented in class from teacher’s assistant/ tennis rival Chad (portrayed by Tom Maden), who was offered the same scholarship as Levi and the two must compete in a tennis matchup of who gets the scholarship.
But with a planned vacation trip to Mexico with his buddies and more tennis matches scheduled for the summer, will Levi be able to attend and pass summer school?
“General Education” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:34:1). Outdoor scenes are quite vibrant showcasing wonderful contrast while indoor scenes were good. For the most part, “General Education” does look very good on Blu-ray!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“General Education” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The soundtrack is primarily dialogue and music driven. But there is probably a few scenes where the surround channels and LFE are used (scenes with fireworks). But for the most part, dialogue and music are crystal clear and primarily front and center channel driven.
“General Education” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Tom Morris and the co-writers and producers of the film: Jaz Kalkat, Kevin Liang, Elliot Feld and sound editor Tim Hoogenakker.
- Outtakes – (5:39) Outtakes from “General Education”.
- Making Of – Featuring interviews with the cast about their characters and the crew about the making of “General Education”.
- Trailer – (1:44) The theatrical trailer for “General Education”.
“High Hopes” is a coming-of-age film that doesn’t really break any new ground. There were a few times in which I thought the film would go one way or try to be clever with its storyline but instead, the film turned out to be quite banal and average.
It’s a standard story about a guy who wants to graduate but his parents are pushing him to be something that he doesn’t want to be.
Part of the problem of the film is that the writers play things too safe. How is Levi really being affected? I suppose the film could have been dark and had him becoming a drug addict, alcoholic or something terrible but I suppose that we have seen those type of films before.
But there are a few things that left me scratching my head of “why?”. Why do some of the characters look like they came from a bad ’80s film? Why is a 13-year-old Charles (portrayed by Skylan Brooks) walking around with no shoes on? Yes, he outgrew them but what is up having a young Black male in a film and his family can’t purchase him shoes? Why have him shoeless to begin with? It makes no sense. You find out that Brian Collins has quit his professional tennis career because he finds out that his girlfriend is dating a big Black man. And why did the man have to hit Brian with a baseball bat? Makes no sense!
The nervous breakdown suffered by Gale Collins (by Janeane Garofalo), didn’t seem natural. She’s a mother who cares for her children, who are growing older and avoiding her. But not once do we see her going off about how she feels. She’s just found laying in the bathtub. There was no build-up for that moment. Which would have been quite fascinating as it was probably the most reserved performance by Garofalo since her appearance on “24”.
You bring in Levi’s friends which could have been fascinating in a “Superbad” kind of way as Levi’s friend including Andy (portrayed by Harvey Guillen) was funny. But the film steers clear of them and focuses on Levi’s relationship with the girl he likes and learning about how his brother wants to choose his own destiny. But you have Levi hanging out with Shady Nick (portrayed by Seth Cassell) who seems like a jock of the ’80s and is a 20-year-old in high school. Once again, it doesn’t make any sense and it would have been better suited to play the strengths of the comedic sides of Andy who was much more fascinating and funny that the character of Shady Nick.
But as much as I question the film for its use of characters and overall storyline, for what it is, you get a safe coming-of-age film. I just wish that the writers took a bit more risk because the storyline for “General Education” could have been a bit more serious or even darker. And even if it was too be all about the comedy, the film could have utilized characters much better.
But with that being said, for filmmaker and writer Tom Morris, a jack-of-all trades when it comes to his involvement with films and co-writers Elliot Feld and Jaz Kalkat, this is a good start and definitely a film that these guys received great experience and I’m sure we’ll see something much better from them next time because of this film.
Overall, “General Education” is a teen comedy/coming-of-age film that plays it a bit too safe with its characters and its overall plot. It’s an average film, not terrible, nor great but you can’t help but feel that it could have been much better
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