Review: ‘My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea’

HighSchool_Still_03

© Dash Shaw/GKIDS

I had the chance last week to see graphic novelist Dash Shaw’s imaginative and audacious animated feature My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea. Here are some thoughts about the experience.

The Premise. Dash (voiced by Jason Schwartzman) and his best friend Assaf (voiced by Reggie Watts) are getting ready for another year at Tides High School. In addition to being students, they are on the staff of the school’s unloved and ignored newspaper along with their friend Verti (voiced by Maya Rudolph). While working on a story (I’ll keep this review spoiler free), Dash finds a document which proves that the school administration has covered up some serious problems with the school building—problems that put everyone inside in harm’s way. When the school literally starts to fall into the ocean, Dash, Assaf, and Verti join up with popular girl Mary (voiced by Lena Dunham) and their seemingly crazy cafeteria lunch lady Lorraine (voiced by Susan Sarandon) to try to find a way out.

Yes, It’s Funny. The film’s script reminds me why I loved Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series so much—it deftly blends humor with horror with unexpectedly great results. While My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea is more of a disaster-movie-meets-John-Hughes-movie than anything remotely close to a horror film, the mash-up of genres succeeds and it is a total blast.

 

HighSchool_Still_05

© Dash Shaw/GKIDS

It’s a Trip. Writer and director Dash Shaw uses a mixed media animation style in this film that incorporates drawings, paintings, one-of-a-kind artistic visual effects (including strobe effects), and collage. The film feels much more like an artistic experiment than a complete animated feature; still, it all comes together thanks to its excellent pacing, great voice talent, interesting script, and wonderfully weird visuals that I never tired of looking at.

HighSchool_Still_01

© Dash Shaw/GKIDS

It Works. While on paper you wouldn’t think that a film like this would be interesting for 70+ minutes, yet it really is. Part of it is due to the fact that Dash Shaw set the film in high school, which is such an emotionally charged time of life. My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea juxtoposes the challenges of American adolescence and high school society with an absolutely absurd series of events, making it seem like the ridiculousness of so much in life could be made easier if friends would be loyal and understanding of each other and if people would be less judgmental and more accepting of those who are different from them, even with the world crumbling around them.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea is working its way across America playing in a variety of art house cinemas around the country. Check out the film’s website for the latest release schedule information.

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