General Education
Well Go USA // PG-13 // $29.98 // October 2, 2012
Review by Jesse Skeen | posted October 7, 2012
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High school comedies have always been a guilty pleasure of mine, so I was glad to be able to check this out. General Education concerns Levi Miller(Chris Sheffield), who finds out during the last week of school that he has failed science class and won't be graduating. His dad (Larry Miller) already has a scholarship lined up for him, so Levi pulls some strings to appear at his graduation ceremony anyways so his family won't know anything went wrong. After a couple failed attempts to cheat at changing his grade, he resorts to re-taking his science class at summer school (where the teacher is played by Elaine Hendrix and is generally unpleasant towards her students) without his parents finding out.

Although I found General Education entertaining enough, pieces seem to be missing from it- for example Levi is under so much pressure to play tennis that it interferes with his studies, but we don't see very much tennis-playing in the movie. Likewise, we don't really see why he's failing his summer class even though the movie takes place before he starts attending it. While there are a number of scenes taking place in the class, we don't really get much of an idea of how well he is doing, or if he is putting any effort into it or not. The scenes where he works on his project of running an older Mercedes on vegetable oil are amusing however.

I laughed a few times but there weren't any really huge laughs in this movie. Levi's slacker friends (played by Sean Przano and Harvey Guillen) are funny in the film's first scenes, but they soon take off on a trip to Mexico (Levi has to stay behind since he didn't graduate) and don't return until the end. Levi's 13 year old "sidekick" Charles (Skylan Brooks) provides some good comic relief, although there isn't really any backstory as to why he's there.

Chris Sheffield does well with the material and makes his character likeable. Hopefully we'll see more from him in the future. Larry Miller plays his typical "Dad" character which you might recall from "Ten Things I Hate About You" and Janeane Garafolo plays the mother but doesn't get much screen time.

Of particular interest to Northern Californians is that this was shot in the towns of Gridley and Chico, which don't show up in films too often (though Chico is somewhat famous for 1938's Robin Hood and a few other movies in the 30s and 40s). Signage in the movie suggests that it takes place in the fictional town of "Hill", though there is one sign visible by the tennis court mentioning Chico.

Video:

"General Education" is encoded in AVC format, presented in 1080p at a 2.35 aspect ratio. Shot with foreground objects in sharp focus, picture looks VERY good with no edge enhancement or other tampering. Colors appear just slightly muted intentionally especially during the classroom scenes. Researching a bit I found that it was shot digitally with Red One 4K cameras, and during viewing I found myself remarking several times how good this looked especially considering how small a production it was.

Sound:

Sound is presented in both 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio and 2-channel Dolby Digital. The 5.1 mix is adequate, most sound stays in the center channel except for music and some ambient effects, surrounds and LFE aren't used too much except for one slow-motion scene. There are no popular songs used in the movie, instead all the music in the film is provided by T. J. Hill and Jesse Pruett which is quite good.

Standard English subtitles are included, which could have used a bit of proofreading as I noticed some words capitalized when they didn't need to be and other words not capitalized when they did.

Extras:

Extras include 5 minutes of outtakes which were probably funny if you'd been there during filming (in PCM stereo and about a 2:1 ratio, picture quality on these is also very good), a 10-minute making-of piece where you get the usual bits with actors analyzing their characters and goofing off on the set, and a theatrical trailer in 1080p with Dolby 5.1 sound. There is also an audio commentary track with director Tom Morris and several other people who worked on the movie. Despite the movie's shortcomings, it sounds like everyone had a great time working on it so that should count for something.

The disc opens with trailers for Supernatural Activity and The Courier in 1080P hi-def and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Annoyingly, they require being chapter-skipped through before you can start the movie.

Final Thoughts:

Although General Education has its flaws, it is a very good-looking movie and the cast is likeable. The primary filmmakers are in their 20s (much of my video equipment is older than they are), so I'll cut them a bit of slack for that as well- I probably couldn't have done as good a job in their shoes. They get a good grade at least for effort, hopefully their next movie will be better. This one is at least worth checking out despite its leaving me with wanting more from it.

Pictures here were not taken from the Blu-Ray disc and do not represent its picture quality.



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