If you are longing for one last binge session before facing the end of your one month trial with Netflix, check out the satirical crime mockumentary “American Vandal.”
With eight episodes of escalating drama and comedy, “American Vandal” has flipped the switch on true-crime dramas and exploited a long running joke about the male member. The creators behind the series, Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault, have done work for “Funny or Die” and “College Humor” and have a distinct taste for unconventional humor and wacky punch lines.
It’s easy to sneer at “American Vandal” as irresponsible and childish based on its premise. The true-crime parody follows two high school aspiring documentarians at the fictional Hanover High School in California. Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam Ecklund (Griffin Gluck) attempt to hunt down the suspect that vandalized 27 faculty vehicles with graffiti of male genitalia. The prime suspect is a beefy, dumbfounded jock named Dylan Maxwell (Jimmy Tatro) whose argument of defense is that he’s simply too dumb to have slyly erased the security footage.
Dylan’s reputation for drawing penises and being a menace to his teachers makes it easy for the board and his peers to turn against him and frame him as the primary offender. Nevertheless, Peter remains unbiased throughout the investigation, turning every rock and following every lead in brilliant play-by-play evaluations. The icing on the cake is how the show is sliced together. “American Vandal” innocently toys with serious crime language and mimics the style of true-crime shows like “Making a Murderer.” The narration is like that of the investigative podcast “Serial” but with more grayscale footage, and a CGI (computer-generated imagery) reconstruction of an alleged summer camp sexual encounter that is more like watching a ballet.
The main part of the series that’s easily taken for granted is the acting from the cast. It can not be easy for the cast to perform as “real people” testifying against a case this serious. Even if the subject of “American Vandal” is abnormal, it pulls you in different directions with twisted developments and conflicts that force the viewer to obsess over the fate of not just Dylan but the entirety of the investigation. “American Vandal” is simple but exquisitely executed in a way that envelops the viewer in an experience like no other. It is unimaginably hyper-serious but serves as a trivial delight to anyone who loves true-crime and high school drama, because many of us can relate to high school feeling like a time that served more questions than answers.
I recommend you start to look for friends with access to Netflix because the series has been approved for a second season. This time Peter will turn his attention to a new school and new students. “American Vandal” is pushing Netflix far in front of its competitors and it isn’t finished yet. Hats off to you, Netflix.