Dash Shaw’s animated comedy is a funny, imaginative trip down a high-school rabbit hole. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
Let’s just start with that title. Yes, Dash Shaw’s wildly creative animated comedy, “My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea,” is about exactly that: As sophomore pals Dash (voiced by Jason Schwarzman) and Assaf (Reggie Watts) are preparing for a truly awesome year of working on the school-paper-that-nobody-reads, Dash stumbles upon a cover-up involving the building’s seismic safety. Just like that, the earth moves and the school begins its descent into the ocean. Dash and Assaf — joined by their editor Verti (Maya Rudolph), popular Mary (Lena Dunham) and a mysteriously wise lunch lady (Susan Sarandon) — must put aside their differences (yes, there’s a romantic triangle involved) and save some lives.
Shaw, a graphic novelist (“New School”), plays winningly with animation techniques, both hand-drawn and CGI: During the flood scenes, you see watercolors dripping, and the characters’ faces have visible brush strokes, giving them a fresh, tossed-off quality. The colors are vivid and the images layered — intricate leaves drift and snowflakes fall outside the school; sharks frolic menacingly in the rising waters. And while the characters are simply drawn, they have distinctive details; particularly Mary’s freckles, Assaf’s bangs and Principal Grimm’s eyepatch (the explanation for which comes at the end of the movie, and is worth the wait).
Though “My Entire High School …” is a brief 77 minutes, it has a few slow spots. But mostly — as that title deserves — it’s a funny, imaginative trip down a high-school rabbit hole, in which we’re reminded that catastrophic disasters may come and go but what matters in high school is where you fit on the school’s social ranking. (Mary, fleeing for her life, nonetheless takes the time to squeal, “ohmygod, he’s NOT my boyfriend!”) As Dash, who has a hilarious fondness for turgid prose, Schwartzman pleasantly brings back memories of his Max Fischer in “Rushmore”: the pretentious but lovable underdog for whom you can’t help but root.
Movie Review ★★★
‘My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea,’ with the voices of Jason Schwartzman, Reggie Watts, Maya Rudolph, Lena Dunham, Susan Sarandon. Written and directed by Dash Shaw. 77 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some images of peril, sexual reference and drug material. SIFF Cinema Uptown.