My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea a swimmingly great take on offbeat teen comedy

Love that title. Of course, if the title lied and we never actually got to see a school break off of its cliff-side perch and submerge itself, I would have hated that title, but since the film delivers what it promises, I dig it. The movie’s pretty great, too. 

We start off in the familiar world of moody teens and grouchy teachers voiced by an all-star cast that includes Jason Schwartzman, Reggie Watts, Maya Rudolph, Lena Dunham and Susan Sarandon.

But we don’t have to wait long for the promised cataclysm to start, and pretty soon, the students find themselves Poseidon Adventuring their way through the school’s flooded interior, trying to avoid bullies, hostile cliques, and sharks. 

The animation style from L.A. artist and graphic novelist Dash Shaw is appealingly crude, like something you’d see scribbled on a high school math workbook. This lends a nice level of abstraction to the whole thing, and allows for plenty of poetic and/or surreal moments to break up the narrative. A shot will fade into some nifty smoke or liquid effects, for example, or twist on its axis, or follow a dotted line through the wreckage like an Indiana Jones map or a Family Circus comic. 

The colouring-book visual style also keeps the tone detached and flippant, even when faced with what would otherwise be horrific images, such as dead children floating in a flooded stairwell. A more realistic visual style would never allow us to go from that back to eye-rolling teen bitchiness, but here we can have all the electrocutions and dismemberments we want without making things too dark. 

Since the survivors must ascend their way from the first floor (where the first year classes are taught) up to the senior’s level and beyond to escape, their journey makes a handy metaphor for “surviving” high school in the more normal sense. 

This is an original, offbeat take on teen comedy that is worth your attention. 

My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea screens at The Globe Cinema on Tuesday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. as part of the Calgary Underground Film Festival. For tickets click here.