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Passing Grade

Mockumentary about teachers amuses but lacks a climactic resolution

“Chalk,” which played in the Gen Art film festival April 17, is a mockumentary about high school teachers over the course of a school year, that brings out unintentionally funny things about the personalities of its teacher characters.

The screenwriters -- Mike Akel and Chris Mass -- and actors put forth original personality quirks presented with a distanced documentarian’s eye. Especially notable are the duo of Janelle Schremmer and Troy Schremmer -- Janelle as Coach Webb, the gym teacher who gets perceived as lesbian even as she unwittingly teaches yoga in suggestive poses, and Troy as Mr. Lowrey, the in-over-his-head first-year teacher who struggles with classroom control and the time demands of the new job. Co-screenwriter Mass also makes an impression as Mr. Stroope, a teacher campaigning as hard for teacher of the year as if it were a political race.

The film is so tightly presented that it’s hard to tell if its lightly funny sensibility is a product of the screenplay or what the actors did with it -- if some improvisation occurred that helped sell the scenes. Chalk, however, in the end takes the route of tying itself up with more concern about where its characters’ heads are at, rather than a more energetic or surprising conclusion in the manner of other classic comedies that presented themselves as a “study” of a subculture -- such as Best In Show and Animal House.

That’s the reason why, if one were to use a four-star rating scale, this would hover somewhere between a 3 and 3 ˝, but nothing more, because it doesn’t have that extra “oomph.”




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