My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea
Director: Dash Shaw
Year of release: 2017
Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Graphic novelist Dash Shaw's feature debut, My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, is at once a striking pop culture vision of hand-drawn innovation as well as a snapshot of adolescent ego run amok. Shaw puts himself into the narrative, visualized here as a self-absorbed teenager voiced by Jason Schwartzman, whose relationship with best friend Assaf (Reggie Watts) is tested once co-editor of the high school newspaper, Verti (Maya Rudolph) comes between them. After uncovering some covert information about the school being below evacuation code--and getting kicked off the paper for spreading bitter rumors about Assaf--things take an Irwin Allen-style disaster turn with an earthquake striking the California coast and causing the action of the film's title.
Joined by other characters trapped inside the slowly sinking school voiced by the likes of John Cameron Mitchell, Lena Dunham, and Susan Sarandon, My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea transforms from an anti-authority parable draped in raging hormones into something more wonderfully surreal. Shaw uses a simple animation strategy; lo-fi Adult Swim-esque sketches with swirling backdrops combining black drawn lines, acrylic color bursts, wood-cut silhouettes, and throwaway visual gags in order to create a hallucinogenic experience. Meanwhile, the writing is sharp and sporadically humorous, with each cast member relaying the dialogue in a way which creates distinctive characterizations from broad stereotypes.
In its freewheeling energy and doodle sketch humor, Shaw's film is a charming reminder of what can be accomplished on a small budget in the realm of animation. At a brisk 77 minutes, the picture also refuses to overstay its welcome, as the thin narrative and sensory overload would probably become repetitive if stretched out any further. As it stands, My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea seems to homage 60/70's modernist animes while also aping the spurting animation style of generation YouTube; resulting in something uniquely thrilling in a cinematic universe gutted by minions and ice age primates.