Surreal animated disaster film My Entire High School is Sinking Into the Sea is a funny, weird distraction
You either love Wes Anderson movies or despise them and that’s understandable. The filmmaker (Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited, The Fantastic Mr. Fox) has a language and a rhythm to his films that is totally his own and totally affected and totally precious. I tend to dig his films well enough, but a little Wes goes a long way. Comic artist-turned-director Dash Shaw‘s animated feature festival fave My Entire High School is Sinking Into the Sea is obviously not a Wes Anderson movie, but it is absolutely influenced by Anderson’s style. And hey, Anderson regular Jason Schwartzman is the lead voice actor so comparisons are inevitable. And like Anderson’s films, you’ll either be onboard with its studied weirdness and stay onboard or dive screaming into the brine with the rest of the film’s doomed cast. We stayed. And we’re glad we did.
The frantically edited, cut and paste stylized feature sees Dash writing a high school-age version of himself named Dash (Schwartzman), a sophomore who starts the school year hopefully higher up on the social pecking order. But what he doesn’t expect is gleaning the knowledge that his school is so shoddily constructed that one slip of nature might very well demolish the building and every stereotypical student inside. Glib humor and arch characters combined with eyeball-stimulating visuals and hipster music combine to create an Anderson-esque world of authentic angst and exaggerated surrealism and when the film fulfills the prophecy of its title and, after an earthquake, actually sinks into the ocean, said surrealism takes front seat.
A lean 76 minutes, High School packs plenty of Luis Bunuel-ish absurdity, laugh-out-loud silliness and even moments of grim, sometimes bloody, dread into its running time and outside of Schwartzman, features an all-star cast that includes Girls‘ Lena Dunham, Maya Rudolph and the amazing Susan Sarandon, who steals the movie as the caustic, gravel-voiced and two-fisted Lunch Lady Lorraine.
Imagine an Irwin Allen disaster flick mashed with a violent apocalyptic thriller and the ethereal whimsy of Donnie Darko (by way of, as we mentioned, Wes Anderson) and animated by the South Park crew and you have an idea about the weird world (even the opening credits are deranged, spinning and spiraling and exploding) that Dash has cobbled together.
My Entire High School is Sinking Into the Sea is currently playing limited theatrical engagements across Canada and the US and is screening in Toronto at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.