Echo Lake High, the setting of Bill Plympton’s animated feature Hair High, is a strange and familiar place. It vaguely resembles a 1950s American high school, but in Plympton’s surreal animated world, the students’ hair reaches architectural heights. The girls use so much hairspray that the air in their bathroom is flammable, while the guys’ hair is tall enough to make Don King jealous.
The biggest and best hair belong to Rod, the quarterback, and Cherri, the head cheerleader. This power couple is so popular that even the teachers take offense when Spud, the new kid, insults Cherri. Rod imposes a punishment on Spud, forcing him to be Cherri’s slave, carrying her books home and even helping her cheat in biology class. Love eventually blooms between them, with flowers literally springing up around them when they first kiss. Spud musters up the courage to ask her to the prom. But the vain Rod makes sure that their dream date ends at the bottom of Echo Lake, or does it?
The movie has plenty of surreal and gross touches typical of Plympton – a chain-smoking biology teacher literally coughs up his guts (no doubt inspired by a gag from Plympton’s 25 Ways to Quit Smoking); Spud, wearing a chicken mascot costume steps in to play quarterback for the injured Rod, soaring into the air and laying giant eggs as the opposing team pursues him. Although this simple story sometimes feels padded, the surprising turns of the plot and creative visuals make it an entertaining animated movie for grownups.