Tenured – Chris Modoono, 2015
Netflix rates it: 3.5/5
I rate it: 3/5
Chris Modoono’s Tenured follows depressed, inappropriate teacher Ethan Collins (Gil Zabarsky) as he tries to navigate life after his wife (Emily Wilson) leaves him for another man. At the same time as trying to readjust to single life, Ethan has to deal with the Assistant Principal (Kate Flannery) trying to get him fired from his job. Think Bad Teacher, but with more of a focus on the students and with a more heartfelt overall feel.
The film also bears a resemblance to School of Rock, but is based around the development of a play rather than a rock band. The film holds the same sense of student-teacher camaraderie, but there are enough differences in the overall plot for it to remain an entertaining watch; it doesn’t feel repetitive.
The acting of the young cast is impressive, as they perfectly capture the mix of innocence and mischievousness often present in kids their age. The young characters are not brushed aside or seen as less integral to the film’s plot like other school-based films have done in the past, and each character is interesting and funny in their own way. In particular, Trevor (Maddux Berry) steals the spotlight with the funny lines he comes out with, and with his portrayal of Ethan in the class play they perform. The deadpan comedic dialogue from Zabarsky is also one of the main origins of many of the humorous moments. However, probably the best part about the film is the interaction between Ethan and his class; one particularly amusing moment involves him and the class working together to outwit Flannery’s character.
Although Ethan’s character does not go through a big personality change in the film, there is some evidence of character development as he learns to work with the students rather than just leaving them to get on with their own thing. It is also intriguing to see his pessimistic personality clash with fellow teacher Abigail’s (Kathleen Littlefield) optimism as their characters become closer.
The interesting thing about Tenured is the way the audience gets to see Ethan and his ex-wife’s past relationship problems through the children acting out their characters in a play. It’s unique in the way that it brings a kind of innocence to something that wouldn’t usually be.
Although it’s not the most original comedy ever created, with its typical and somewhat predictable storylines, the acting keeps entertainment levels high along with the children’s amusing interpretation of Ethan’s love life in their play. Many comedies tend to lose their humour at some point in the film, however Tenured manages to hold onto it throughout whilst still having heartfelt scenes, which is exciting to see.
Based on the previous short film Teacher of the Year (2012), Tenured is a somewhat touching comedy that is strengthened by its witty and talented cast. Although it bears some similarities to existing films, this is by no means a reason to give it a miss as the acting gives it a fun, refreshing spin.