My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea

My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea

If you like animated films, but you don't need to see any fluidity or "the illusion of life" in the animation itself, then I've got the movie for you.

Cartoonist Dash Shaw's feature debut is nothing if not droll. The title is literal: the story concerns a high school built on an earthquake fault next to the sea. When an ill-advised auditorium is added to the top floor, the whole building tumbles into the drink, and it's up to a handful of neurotic students – led by a protagonist named Dash Shaw – to climb up, floor by floor, and escape their Titanic-like school alive. (Metaphor alert!)

How much you enjoy My Entire High School may depend on how charming you find its defiantly crude animation, painterly backgrounds, and offbeat color scheme. Then there's the cast: Shaw seems inspired by the old Peanuts TV specials in his voice casting, so Jason Schwartzman (as Shaw), Lena Dunham, and a slew of other hip actors deliver deadpan, Charlie Brown-ish work.

Does it all sound too quirky for you? Indeed, does the very name "Dash Shaw" set your nerves on edge? Then you should follow your hunches. I myself never warmed to Shaw's uncomely visual style, which wore me out even during the film's brisk 75-minute runtime. I will say, though, that the story is well-structured and has lots of amusing moments. What surprised me most was seeing that Shaw – who, impressively, handled all the art and animation alone – really knows how to set up a shot. His widescreen compositions are truly cinematic, like storyboards for a potentially great action movie. Does that make My Entire High School worth seeing? Not really.