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Hubbard native’s first film shines



Published: Thu, August 23, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

“General Education,” the first feature film from Hubbard native Tom Morris, is a charming and highly-buoyant tale with quirky humor that’s kept on simmer through its brisk 85 minutes.

It will be released Friday in 11 theaters across the country, the closest being Gateway Film Center in Columbus. I got an advance copy of it this week.

Morris is a 2007 graduate of Hubbard High and a graduate of Brooks Institute film school in Santa Barbara, Calif. He formed Pelican House Productions in 2010 with three of his classmates. “General Education” is their first film. Morris directed it and also was a co-writer.

Set in a northern California town, “General Education” follows the travails of Levi Collins, who is about to graduate high school but must first take summer school because he failed science. He’s being pushed by his headstrong father (a terrific Larry Miller) to follow in his footsteps by accepting a tennis scholarship to a prestigious university. His tennis nemesis and a young lady he meets in class further complicate his life.

“General Education” is meant to be lighthearted fun, and it succeeds.

But its greatest accomplishment is in conjuring up a wee bit of what I call movie magic; it’s when a movie makes you feel so good that you forget everything else and bask in its glow.

It’s something that only “small” and quirky films can do, those with youthful casts that focus on a fleeting but important moment. It reminds you of a time in your own life when the future first came into focus, bright and beckoning.

For examples, see other coming-of-age comedies like “Juno,” “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Adventureland,” and maybe even “Jeff, Who Lives at Home.”

Let’s hope Morris and Co. never lose this skill, even as they age.

Giggles are injected in every moment of this sunny script. At one point, Levi checks the caller ID on his ringing phone, which reads “Robert Downey Jr.” He turns to his friend and says, “it’s my mom.”

It would be especially crazy to not congratulate Pelican House for assembling this amazing cast, which also includes Janeane Garofalo as Levi’s meek but devoted mom, who sips from a stem-glass of vino to get through each day. Chris Sheffield plays the earnest Levi, and he shines as the focus of his swirling universe.

The secondary characters were also chosen with equal care and light up their scenes, especially Maiara Walsh (with whom Levi has a budding romance), McKaley Miller (Levi’s sister), and Elaine Hendrix (the no-nonsense science teacher).

If you can’t make it to Columbus, “General Education” will be available for premium rental on iTunes and Video on Demand through cable providers. The film will be released Oct. 2 on DVD and Blu-Ray.


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