Look, I know “Titanic meets The Breakfast Club, but animated” sounds like an irresistible pitch, and indeed it’s hard to argue you’ve seen anything quite like writer/director Dash Shaw’s funky tale. It follows a geeky, unpopular high-school sophomore also named Dash (Jason Schwartzman) who finds himself among friends (Reggie Watts and Maya Rudolph), a popular student council member (Lena Dunham) and a nigh-superhuman lunch lady (Susan Sarandon) trying to survive when his structurally unsound seaside high school collapses into the ocean after an earthquake. Shaw peppers his simple hand-drawn style with flashes of psychedelia and odd angles to make it feel a lot like a zine come to life, and there’s a perverse appeal to the dark, droll humor; the sight of a pile of dead bodies inspires the observation “They’re not gonna graduate.” Yet it’s also a paper-thin narrative populated with single-attribute-if-they’re-lucky characters, which makes it jarring when John Cameron Mitchell makes a too-brief appearance voicing a BMOC-turned-demigod who actually has a personality. If live-action disaster movies are dinged for being all about the visuals, it seems only fair to hold this to a similar standard.
Director: Dash Shaw
Producer: Kyle Martin, Craig Zobel, Joshua Blum, Tyler Davidson, Kevin Flanigan and Matthew Johnson
Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham, Reggie Watts, Maya Rudolph, Susan Sarandon, Thomas Ryan, Alex Karpovsky, Louisa Krause and John Mitchell