If John Hughes and Wes Anderson came together for a disaster movie set inside a high school, you’d probably get something resembling My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, a marvelous little animated movie from writer-director Dash Shaw about an accident that sends a high school full of 900 kids off the side of a cliff and into the menacing ocean below.
Can these kids find a way to survive as their high school quite literally begins to sink into the sea?
It’s a pretty bonkers premise, and the film’s darkly humorous tone really works in animation, where the audience is more inclined to root for the amusingly horrific scenario than sit back in horror as hundreds of kids perish. This isn’t the kind of disaster movie where the earth is threatened — no team of hot shots is flying into outer space to blow up an asteroid heading our way — but for a high school student whose entire world exists within the confines of their school, this is their end of days.
The film revolves around two sophomore best friends, Dash (Jason Schwartzman) and Assaf (Reggie Watts), whose quest to put out a meaningful, engaging high school newspaper is falling on deaf ears. No one cares. No one wants to read an actual paper. As the duo hash out ways to increase readership, their relationship becomes strained when Assaf grows closer to the paper’s editor, Verti (Maya Rudolph). Needless to say, journalism nerds are going to love the complexities of this trio, who throughout the ordeal continue to remain concerned about their prose and the way it’ll be used in the eventual book they’ll write about this disaster.
My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea succeeds most in the way it plants us firmly inside the mind of a teenager tasked with surviving the worst possible scenario. As typical in an apocalyptic survival movie, our trio of writers eventually join forces with a ragtag group consisting of various personalities, including a tough-as-nails lunch lady, a popular female athlete and the school troublemaker.
As the group slowly attempt to climb higher in the school to avoid the rising water, we see how the different classes of students — from the first floor freshmen to the fourth floor seniors — are experiencing the drama, with each floor playing into the amusing mentality of its students.
There’s the almost mythic-like seniors who’ve already developed their own post-apocalyptic society, complete with a popular athlete as their leader, as well as the nerdy teacher’s pet who builds a raft as a means to escape, heckling those he passes along the way. A great example of the film’s unique teen-centric tone comes when our team of misfit survivors stumble across a grisly scene where dozens of students are dead and floating in the water. Their reaction: “Those kids aren’t going to graduate.”
The animation itself is its own character, too, coming off as very whimsical and dreamlike throughout. There are times when we’re treated to random interludes of colors and music as if the high schooler doodling this story into the back of their textbook during math class drifted off in thought before returning to the conflict.
My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea is short, sweet. pretty and very funny — the kind of film perfect for late-night stoner viewing, or as something to have on in the background as you doodle through your own anxieties of growing up and figuring out what comes next.
My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea is currently screening at the New York Film Festival. There is no release date set yet.
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