Ghost Graduation (Promoción Fantasma): School’s Out Forever (Review)

Poster or Ghost Graduation 2012

Having recently discovered the comedic directing abilities of Javier Ruiz Caldera via the very entertaining Spy Timeit was brilliant to find another film by this  director on Netflix; Ghost Graduation. This  fantasy/comedy offering (original title Promoción Fantasma) from Spain has a ghost busting teacher who helps some dead students get out of school forever. 

Modesto (Raúl Arévalo) learns at an early age that he can see and interact with dead people. Unlike the kid in The Sixth Sense, the departed that Modesto interacts with look like everyday people. These are normal looking and look nothing like the grim ghosts  in M Night Shyamalan’s film. 

The young man grows up to be a teacher who is fired from every school he finds employment with. His social skills are mainly to blame as he isolates himself. Modesto attends therapy sessions and is told there are no ghosts and that he is gay.

The teacher hires on at Monforte, a school plagued by inexplicable events The school has an opening after s a literature teacher is flung out an upper story window. The events are caused by a group of dead former students who have failed to move on.

The quintet of deceased “Breakfast Club” members is comprised of stereotypes that work very well for the comedy.  The school bad boy – Dani (Àlex Maruny), the Jock – Jorge (Jaime Olías),  the party animal – Pink Floyd (Javier Bódalo), the loose girl – Marivi – (Andrea Duro) and the  good girl – Angela (Anna Castillo).

The comedy begins in earnest when Modesto is hired as the new literature teacher. The rest of the film deals with his burgeoning romance with Tina, played by Alexandra Jiménez who worked with director Caldera in Spy Time. The school’s headmistress has a thorn in her side with school council president Ortegui (Carlos Areces) who has a surprising connection to one of the ghostly students. 

Ghost Graduation does what any really good comedy should do. It makes one laugh and cry. The film also shows that students are pretty much the same all over the world.  The five ghosts of the school died  during a 1990s Christmas party. The deceased were  five students who were in detention in the library and they all perished in a fire. The kids are stuck at the school until they can move on.

The comedy is contagious, from the ghostly students freaking out that the new teacher can see and hear them to  Modesto’s reactions to his surroundings, it is all good fun.  In terms of violence there is very little; a teacher thrown out a window twice is all there is. There is some partial nudity but no sex and no foul language in the subtitles.

The director show the same skillful handling of this comedic feature film that he demonstrated in Spy Time.  Ghost Graduation is fast paced and at 88 minutes speeds by with all the momentum of a bullet train.

The film looks good, in terms of CG, except for  the “vomiting” sequences where Pink Floyd spews copious amounts of pink liquid. The character died drunk and stayed drunk.

Arévalo is spot on as the social inept Modesto whose confidence grows as the film progresses. Jiménez plays the beleaguered school head very well and apart from being stunning, has comedy chops to spare. The actors playing the students were brilliant and for those who may have only discovered  Anna Castillo;  keep an eye on this one. 

Caldera has adroitly handled two comedy offering out of a possible three. The last film, Three Many Weddings is the 2013 offering from a trio of films that began with Ghost Graduation. The Spanish movie is subtitled but this takes nothing from the enjoyment of this comedic haunted school tale.

This was another 5 star film from a director who won this reviewer over on Spy Time and had now solidified a reputation of being able to effortlessly do comedy.  Streaming on Netflix watch this one. Now.

Sex Ed (2014): Haley Joel Osment Indie Comedy

promotional still from Sex Ed
Haley Joel Osment has followed up his previous 2014 Independent film outing, Kevin Smith’s superb Tusk, with another Indie movie, this one a comedy titled Sex Ed. Written by Bill Kennedy and directed by Isaac Feder (helming his first feature-length film) the movie is an almost wry look at a virginal teacher’s attempt to teach middle school kids about sex.

Osment may have gotten the world’s cinematic attention after playing the kid, (“I see dead people.”) in M. Night Shyamalan’s brilliant 1999 film The Sixth Sense but to a huge portion of the population he is the English voice of Sora from the epic video game Kingdom Hearts. Anyone watching Haley in Tusk will have noticed that even with very little to do, in that film, those acting chops are alive and well.

Sex Ed proves that the adroit performer can do comedy as easily as other types of roles. It is always a shock to see a grown up Osment, he is now 27 years-old and until Tusk, the last film I saw the actor in was Second Hand Lions. As the young semi-abandoned lad, “I’ve been to the orphan home before, I don’t want to go back,” Walter, he projected the perfect mix of loss, hopefulness and pathos, how he did not get an award for that film is a mystery.

In the start of this film, he plays Ed Cole, unemployed teacher, virgin and all around nerd. His character is uncomfortable around women and is convinced he is not cool enough. Ed is working in a bagel shop and getting rejection letters from every educational institute he applies to. After a motivational chat with his housemate JT (Glen Powell) he goes and demands that he be hired for a teaching job

On his first day, a young teen girl in his class comes back from the restroom crying and between sobs tells Cole that she has cancer and is dying. She has started her menstrual period and does not know that this is normal. The teacher immediately decides to teach the kids during their detention period about sex education.

He also falls in love with a student’s older sister and incurs the wrath of the local minister. During his daily adventures with the kids in his class, Cole desperately wants a girlfriend and to have sex, although not necessarily in that order. Sex Ed may not be blazingly original but the film is entertaining, funny in the right spots and although not “laugh out loud” funny, the film is pretty chuckle worthy.

Love interest Lorenza Izzo (Aftershock, Knock Knock) does a great job at being awkwardly interested in the nerdy Cole. Abby Elliot and Powell make a great couple and play really well off one another.

Kudos to Retta (Parks and Recreation, Fracture) as Sydney, Ed’s landlady and “life coach” as well as the owner of the bar below his apartment. This lady plays her part with a genuine feeling of warmth and caring that is funny and amidst the humor, sincere.

Streaming on US Netflix, Sex Ed is a 3 star film. Enjoyable enough but not so original that your breath will be taken away.

6 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith