MY ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL SINKING INTO THE SEA * * *
With the voices of Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham, Reggie Watts, Maya Rudolph and Susan Sarandon. Written and directed by Dash Shaw.
Like a droll, back-of-the-class daydream had while waiting for the bell to ring, the truth-in-advertising-titled My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea is both a petty wish-fulfillment fantasy and gentle critique of the same. Written and directed by underground comics artist Dash Shaw, the movie is a smeary, dazzlingly animated collage of crude, hand-drawn styles that looks like everything from dried-up magic markers to melted crayons illustrating a phantasmagoria of teen angst by way of Irwin Allen disaster movies.
Jason Schwartzman voices Shaw’s namesake stand-in with more than a little of his old Max Fischer mojo. A muckracking reporter for the school paper who mostly just makes stuff up, Dash is wounded when best friend Assaf (Reggie Watts) starts dating their editor (Maya Rudolph) and our hypersensitive hero feels third-wheeled into adolescent oblivion. At the same time, he discovers that their school overlooking the ocean has been built on a giant fault line with forged permits, but nobody believes this boy who cried wolf until the entire high school –you guessed it—goes sinking into the sea.
Faster than you can sing “There’s Got To Be A Morning After,” Dash is leading a rascally band of insubordinate wiseacres who refuse to do what they’re told and wait for rescue. The school’s four floors are divided by grade, so every escape upward finds the kids “graduating” from freshman to senior year while the filmmaker and lead animator Jane Samborski unleash new and surreal palates of psychedelic wonders at each ascending level.
While mending fences with Assaf and their justly aggrieved editor, Dash banters with the school’s sarcastic popular girl (Lena Dunham) and a very funny druggie voiced by Alex Karpovsky. The kids are also accompanied by Susan Sarandon’s Lunch Lady Lorraine, a cafeteria worker full of secrets.
If it sounds like a little of this goes a long way, you are correct — but there’s really not that much of it. Judiciously clocking in at just under seventy-five minutes, the movie occasionally cuts away from the narcissistic teen quips to some gorgeously abstract underwater reveries. Shaw is also fairly adept at modulating the mood, so whenever things threaten to become too twee he’ll happily have someone get eaten by a shark. This movie kills a lot of kids.
There’s something inherently hilarious about shoving bratty, self-regarding Schwartzman into Gene Hackman’s role from The Poseidon Adventure. My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea is amusingly merciless about puncturing our hero’s grand delusions. My favorite flourish arrives during the epilogue, in which Dash publishes an account of the students’ ordeal, only to receive mixed reviews.