My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea

Dash ShawUSA76 minutes2016PGColourEnglish

The title tells the tale in this inventive, beautiful and bizarre animated feature from acclaimed graphic novelist Dash Shaw, featuring the voices of Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham, Maya Rudolph, Susan Sarandon and Reggie Watts.

Inventive, beautiful, and more than a little bizarre, the animated feature debut from acclaimed graphic novelist Dash Shaw is surely the most delightful disaster movie in cinema history. To say that My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea is like John Hughes fused with The Poseidon Adventure makes for a snappy pitch — and it's true — but it doesn't prepare you for the sheer originality of Dash's vision. Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham, Maya Rudolph, Susan Sarandon, and Reggie Watts supply voices for this story about what it takes to survive adolescence. Literally.

Best friends Dash (Schwartzman) and Assaf (Watts) are sophomores at Tides High, where they author the entire school newspaper. When their editor (Rudolph) starts offering Assaf solo assignments, Dash's jealousy prompts him to publish fictitious reportage about Assaf having erectile dysfunction. Later, while rummaging through the school archives, Dash discovers records indicating that the building isn't up to code. He tries to warn his schoolmates, but after his slanderous attacks on Assaf, nobody believes him. Then it happens: an earthquake sends the school toppling into the Pacific. Everyone inside is trapped. A girl is ripped to shreds by baby sharks. Dash is bitten by jellyfish. Sundry students are electrocuted. Will anyone survive the sinking of Tides High? Can Lorraine the Lunch Lady (Sarandon) lead the kids to safety?

Whether it's autumn leaves tumbling in the wind or bodies toppling to their deaths, Dash's imagery, with its hand-drawn figures and gouache-painted celluloid, is awash in wacky wondrousness. Body count aside, My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea is a very sweet film about the importance of friendship — and about knowing when it's all right to fudge facts for the sake of a good story.

JANE SCHOETTLE

AnimationComedyUSAFirst FeatureYouth