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General Education

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General Education
Directed and co-written by Tom Morris
Pelican House Productions
Opens August 24, Cinema Village

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If General Education seems familiar, it’s not just the one witty scene reprising everyone’s high school graduation memory of the mangled pronunciation of everyone's names. It’s also the mix ’n’ match of clichés and set pieces from other teen movies. In General Education, Levi Collins (Chris Sheffield, a cute blond Farley Granger look-alike) has to fake his way onto that roster, because his dad, the mayor (Larry Miller), has forced him to carry on the family tradition of tennis—the practice schedule has interfered with class attendance, and Levi didn’t really earn his diploma. But summer school provides a “eureka!” moment, though it has to be kept secret, or he will lose his sports scholarship to college. Director Tom Morris makes his debut here, but the film is like a new colt tripping over itself, going off every which way in tracking the odd assortment of Levi’s pals, too: a trailer-dweller named Shady Nick (Seth Cassell), two dimwits with stoner/slacker vibes (Harvey Guillen and Sean Przano), and Levi’s sidekick, a 13-year-old African-American boy (Skylan Brooks) used for odd tasks (!). There's also, dismayingly, a swishy tennis scout (Federico Dordei) and a teacher (Elaine Hendrix) name-called a dyke. But Levi’s girlfriend (Maiara Walsh) proudly proclaims herself vegan, and he conjures up a “science project” that is a planet-saver’s green dream. (Maybe only the California Valley where the film is set can accommodate both reactionary and progressive points of view.) The gifted Janeane Garofalo plays Levi’s mom: a despondent empty nester, sometimes delivering her lines with emotions from an altogether deeper place. Marsha McCreadie

 
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