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Chalk

The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love (maybe)

The first of day school as a student fresh off of summer vacation is always a bit harrowing. The first day of school for a teacher is much, much worse. Especially for those teachers portrayed in first-time director Mike Akel's mockumentary Chalk. If the kids arenít stealing chalk or getting into fights then the teachers and administration are completely exasperated.

There are times that Chalk is painful to watch and there are other times that are laugh out loud funny. The focus of the most schadenfreude is hapless, bumbling first year teacher Mr. Lowrey (Troy Schremmer). Like feral animals, his students can smell the fear and frustration wafting off of him and pounce; it is not a pretty sight. And then there's the overenthusiastic P.E. teacher Coach Webb (Janelle Schremmer), who takes her job way too seriously, and Mr. Stroope (Chris Mass) who doesn't take his job seriously enough. Rounding out the cast is teacher-turned-assistant-principal Mrs. Reddell (Shannon Haragan).

The cast has a sharp sense of comedic timing, which can be seen in both the classroom scenes and the "confessional" shots. The direction, which has a documentary-style handheld camera feel, is skillful. However, though the storyline is fairy straightforward there was one scene -- an odd dream sequence involving Mr. Lowrey and Coach Webb -- that was completely off and strayed from the movie's style. And while you can manage some empathy with the characters, none of them are particularly endearing. Yes, their jobs suck and they have no life but, in the end, do you really care?

If you're a fan of "The Office" or any of the Christopher Guest films, e.g. Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration, then you may want to check this movie out as well. Though it's no Spinal Tap, it is definitely a promising initial foray into improvisational comedy. However, if you're a stressed out teacher already counting down the days till the next break, then you may want to take pause.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars