With no shortage of memoir-esque graphic novels on the circuit, comic artist/animator Dash Shaw brings the gestalt to the big screen, albeit in a wildly exaggerated fashion. The film My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea is a bizarre and skewed recalling of high school wannabe life melded with Superhero adventure comedy (very) loosely based on Shaw's own life—or at least his obsession with comics and independent film.

We follow sophomore Dash (voiced by Jason Schwartzman) and his friends Assaf (Reggie Watts) and Verti (the inimitable Maya Rudolph) as the age-old perils of seaside high school coolness coupled with the pressures of a school newspaper drive a wedge between them. When Dash jealously lashes out against his pals in print and subsequently sets out to doctor a black mark on his permanent record, he discovers building inspection documents forged by the mysterious Principal Grimm (Thomas Jay Ryan), an eyepatch-wearing almost-villain (who, for the record, does ultimately seek redemption).

Indeed, Dash's entire high school sinks into the sea, and it's up to the student body to survive. Thrust into uncomfortable high school politics alongside his hurt friends, a popular-girl-type named Mary (Girls' Lena Dunham) and a badass lunch lady with a heartbreaking past named Lorraine (Susan Sarandon), Dash still finds a way to access his own bias but, of course, that's part of what makes it so funny. Teenagers can be self-absorbed—even as classmates are eaten by sharks—and though Dash is flawed and probably still carrying the scars from last year's acne, he manages to become a lovable, understandably human hero.

High School is the coming-together of so many wonderful things, from comics and abstract animation to the excellent original score from Rani Sharone. John Cameron Mitchell of Hedwig and the Angry Inch fame even makes an appearance in the cast and, hopefully, some weirdo kid out there who feels lost will look up at the screen and realize there's a whole world out there waiting for them.


+ incredibly creative and weird
- maybe too weird for some

My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea
Directed by Shaw
With Schwartzman, Rudolph and Watts
Center for Contemporary Arts,
75 min