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Djb: D | Grade It Now!
Parental Guidance Suggested

Opening credits: Is life lived in melancholy slo-mo really living?

Opening shot of cold, vacuous space turns out to be anything but. Instead, it is one of many slides in front of which geometry teacher-alien hunter-guidance counselor Renee Zellweger lectures the students about their promising futures and how to prepare for them. Maria tosses out a comment akin to the "would you like fries with that" cliché we've come to expect of her ever non-deepening character. Hey, wanna hear a joke? Okay: How come you can't see Maria when she turns to the side? Because she only exists in -- ONE DIMENSION! Bah ha ha ha ha! I kill me. Anyhow, Liz completely ignores her, as well she should, and drifts off on another cloud: "I suddenly realized it wasn't my future I was worried about at all. My future was full of all kinds of promise. If I could just get through the present." Well, Liz, writing down each and every salient detail of your life as it occurs probably slows things down, eh?

Cut to hallway shot of Liz and Maria, with Maria explaining that not much damage was done to her car and that she's more than capable of handling Valenti. On the other hand, "it probably wouldn't have happened if Miss Isabel hadn't been playing with my head," and suddenly we're deep within yet another scene which exists solely to describe another scene we've just finished watching. Liz asks Maria what she did to set Isabel off, and Maria answers, "I was there to extend myself, trying to reach out, give her that whole 'I come in peace' thing," but asserts repeatedly that Isabel is "creeping me out." Liz claims that the important thing is to stay "in control," and Maria paces violently and wipes away the thick white foam collecting at the sides of her mouth, repeating, "In control. In control." Boy, I know I could calm Maria down just by telling her to take a chill pill, but that expression is, like, so 1992 I can't even stand it.

And speaking of things that happened before a fair percentage of the cast was born, the following scene rips a page right out of the John Hughes For Beginners approach to high school interaction. Suddenly and awkwardly adopting a rather light tone (in that famously fertile ground for uproarious comic hilarity, the Guidance Counselor's Office), the following scene is a montage of students responding to Renee's prompting, "Why don't you start by telling me what your dream job would be." Responses range from zany (Isabel offers "supermodel") to super-zany ("Brad Pitt's love slave") to "molecular biologist." Thanks for keeping us grounded in Yawnerville, USA, Parker. All the while, the scene is accompanied by a soundtrack seemingly comprised of Howard Jones's synthesizers, smuggled out of the Smithsonian for this blissfully out-of-context diversion. Then Renee asks the same students what they think they will actually be doing in ten years. This time the answers fall somewhere between the highly unnecessary ("well, we could all be dead in ten years") to the completely unreportable (don't be looking in these parentheses, okay? I said they were unreportable). Next -- I know, I know, can you believe this is still going on? In my high school, our guidance counselors would call the students in, determine we were free of drugs and head lice, and send us off to college -- Renee plays a "relationship game." She shows each student a drawing of people in motion, and asks which one best represents them. Max Evans considers the drawing of a group of children playing and responds that he is "probably the one behind the tree." Renee puts down the drawing and seems poised to erupt into that whole "doting guidance counselor" thing we've seen a thousand times before. But really, there are only four other kids in this drawing besides the one behind the tree -- two of them are girls, one of them is barely visible, and the fourth wears a beret. Personally, I too would rather be accused of sitting in the shade, quietly enjoying my day, than be mistaken for a kid who is either female, invisible, or French. But Renee's thoughts do not meander toward quite the same conclusion. Turning Max's vulnerability into her own martyred sob story, Renee speechifies to Max about the social benefits of "coming out from behind the tree," as uncloaked a cloaked allusion to gay liberation as any I've seen in prime time. Sure enough, Max asks what small steps Renee took to become the extrovert she is today, to which she responds, "[I] started a conversation with this guy I liked." The bell rings and Max is off to follow Renee's advice to the letter ("Hey, Kyle, well, I've seen you around school and . . ."); meanwhile, Renee fills in a "comments" section on a form with Max's name with the perceptive observation, "Has secrets." Like you don't even know, Renee. Like you don't even know.

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