By Don Simpson | August 24, 2012
Director: Tom Morris
Writers: Tom Morris, Elliot Feld, Jaz Kalkat
Starring: Chris Sheffield, Maiara Walsh, Skylan Brooks, Bobby Campo, Seth Cassell, Federico Dordei, Janeane Garofalo, Harvey Guillen, Stacy Hall, Elaine Hendrix, Tom Maden, Mercedes Masöhn, Susan McCarthy, Larry Miller, McKaley Miller, Sean Przano
My biggest concern when Napoleon Dynamite was first released was that it would become a huge hit and hundreds of wannabe copycats would appear in its wake. Well, it has now been eight years since Napoleon Dynamite broke into the mainstream consciousness and copycats are still trickling out, such as Tom Morris’ General Education.
General Education opens as a flamboyant (he wears an ascot!), lisping tennis scout (Federico Dordei) flirtatiously offers Levi Collins (Chris Sheffield) a full scholarship to Forest Wood. Shortly thereafter, Levi finds out that he has failed Ms. Bradford’s (Elaine Hendrix) science class which prompts him to refer to her as a dyke. Next we meet Levi’s self-proclaimed sidekick, Charles (Skylan Brooks), a 13-year old black kid with no shoes who does Levi’s bidding. So within the first five or so minutes of the film, it becomes apparent that no minorities or anyone in the LGBT community will be safe from becoming the brunt of General Education‘s humorless attempts at jokes.
But, I digress… Since Levi failed science class, he cannot graduate from high school. This is all because his father (Larry Miller) has pressured him into playing tennis. You see, Levi’s high school does not have a tennis team, so he plays for his father’s country club. For whatever reason, his matches are on weekdays, so he has missed a lot of science classes. Levi refuses to tell his overbearing father that he failed because it would be a tremendous disappointment — every Collins since 1925 has played tennis for Forest Wood and Levi would have been the first in his family to play on a full scholarship. So, Levi clandestinely attends summer school in the hopes of getting his diploma before his parents notice, but of course things are not that easy…especially not for us in the audience.
Morris opts to throw everything at us and see if anything sticks. Within the course of the narrative, Levi’s goofy mother (Janeane Garofalo) contends with alcoholism, his sister (Mckaley Miller) becomes a mime, his best friends (Harvey Guillen, Sean Przano) go to Mexico, he meets a cute girl (Maiara Walsh), and an obnoxious bully (Tom Maden) harasses him. What I find most perplexing, however, is that no one at Levi’s high school — including his science teacher — knows that vegetable oil can be used as an alternative fuel?