By Tanner Bidish, Staff Writer
Never has a film title been better suited to prepare audiences for what they’re about to watch. My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea radiates quirk; in its title, in its celluloid style, in its plot, even in its casting. The ensemble is built of Reggie Watts, Maya Rudolph, Lena Dunham, and Susan Sarandon; Heading the pack is the princess of quirk himself, Jason Schwartzman. The misfit gang has to pull it together and escape their high school as – you guessed it – it sinks into the sea.
It sounds clichéd on paper, right? The characters are a tad tropey, and the plot is off the wall, but it works. Deadpan deliveries and witty dialogue culminate for a vibe that’s akin to Daria. The notes of absurdity that soak the narrative give a sense that the film would fit in airing on Adult Swim. The tonal mix creates an atmosphere in My Entire High School that feels comfortably overwrought. The balance of predictability to unexpected is resolutely in check and the wacky never runs amuck of the script. Nothing is taken for granted: The eccentric adults aren’t unknowing husks, the ridiculous setting isn’t a one-off gag, and the supporting casts have meaningful arcs that aren’t entirely dependent on the hero. This is a case of earnest, good screenwriting. In an age of mediocrity, a good script is so satisfying to come by.
Hats off to Dash Shaw for the marvelous direction, too. The look of the film is distinct to his work as an illustrator and cartoonist. The animation is crude, simplistic, retro, impressionistic and at times entirely experimental. The style integrates perfectly into the tone of the film. It’s like how it would look if your graphic novels started to move around on the page. Think Scott Pilgrim v. The Animation, except less polished and way artsier. Matched by the electric soundscapes of Roni Sharone, the animation breathes an aesthetic of adolescent effort and dysphoria. The look and feel are cool, in an “I’m not the cool guy” sort of way.
My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea is a little gem. Little is accurate too. The film clocks in at just 72 minutes, but it’s lively and fun all the way through. This coming of age adventure is an oddball, and it feels like it’s for a specific audience, however, that audience will undoubtedly love this cult-classic contender.