Screen comedy has given us a few seriously, unintentionally inappropriate parent/child relationships, mostly in the films of Cameron Crowe — Mother/Son in “Almost Famous,” Father/Daughter in “Say Anything.”
But those have nothing on the sometimes amusing, always creepy Mother-Son weirdness of “Adventures in Public School,” which pairs up Judy Greer with Netflix’s go-to-“teen”-boy, Daniel Doheny in a tale that goes “Ewwwww” for laughs.
Claire has home-schooled Liam, prepping him for physics at Cambridge, “where I can study under Stephen Hawking and become the second-most-famous physicist in the world.”
OK, maybe not.
Claire isn’t a religious fanatic. She had dreams, went to the local high school, got pregnant on a field trip and has no intention of letting her “special” brilliant kid get derailed by “a school for stupid people.”
She’s tried to give him everything he would have gotten out of public school, intense study, even a “prom” where only his grandmother and uncle show up — with “I’d like to cut in” mom. She’s drilled Liam in every subject but socializing. He has no friends.
And on the day of the test, this smart kid figures out, with a glance, exactly what he’s missed. He spies the mysterious and beautiful one-legged blonde, Anastasia (Siobhan Williams). There’s nothing for it but to blow the test, insist he attend high school (taking the place of a girl who “got sick,” taking her classes — modern dance, etc.) and give Mom her first-ever dose of Liam rebellion.
Being the ultimate helicopter mom, she hurls herself further into his business — teaching him about condoms. “Trojans, Troy, Sodom” where sodomy was invented — marijuana, “hot boxing” in her late model LTD (with Granny) — tub-side lectures on female anatomy, a sampler night of what underage boys should drink (“wimpy” beers vs. manly ones).
Inappropriate Mom picking Liam up from school is the worst. “Hey kid want some candy! What are you, a pussy?”
A funny moment, setting up the home school classroom (the garage) so she can teach him the teen rebellion mainstay, swearing — Mom egging Liam into dropping the f-bomb.
Netflix teen comedies lean into sexuality, substance abuse and profanity, and “Adventures in Public School” leans hard. Rarely has a teen comedy put so much effort into checking off minor tests of the motion picture ratings board. They’re shooting for “dirtiest teen comedy on Netflix,” as if that’s a goal worth pursuing.
Still, Judy Greer is just the sort of movie mom who could introduce herself with “I’m freezing my tits off out here.”
The whole Pursuit of Anastasia thing is generic and a non-starter. A boy’s first girlfriend is his mother is the heart of this, and your reaction to that determines how you’ll respond to this comedy. Yeah, the other kids can vouch for her “MILF” status. One can only hope if he gets that notion, it’s with another home schooling mom.
Get past the “Ick” stuff, the fears of “How much further are they going to take this?” and “Adventures in Public School” hits the occasional sweet spot. Liam pretending to be “Maria Sanchez” for the school year is one of them.
Russell Peters is the clueless guidance counselor who directs every kid, even Liam who is into astronomy –counselor cannot even SPELL it — into “massage therapy.”
Andrew McNee is the ditzy principal who lusts after Claire, even as he insults home schooling as “sitting around the house, making up pirate stories.”
Doheny (“The Package”) is a charmingly hapless leading man, and Greer is a comic force of nature. When she and another home-schooling mom (Grace Park) bond over their contempt for public schools and protecting their kids all the way into adulthood — “Nobody’s having sex with them but us…with us…with us AROUND” — you realize nobody else could have pulled off this vulgarian as sweetly.
The teacher who responds to a homophobic slur with annoyance, then an admission that yes, there’s another teacher of the same sex that he’s been with, but “just that one,” the teen sexting, the condom-installation-stopwatch test, labels this “teen” film something else.
Is “Adventures in Public School” appropriate for young kids, the 14-and-unders with Netflix as their baby sitter? Certainly not. This is some seriously adult, flirt-with-pervy “TV-14” doesn’t really cover it stuff.
MPAA Rating: TV-14
Cast: Daniel Doheny, Judy Greer, Siobhan Williams, Alex Barima, Russell Peters
Credits:Directed by Kyle Rideout, script by Josh Epstein, Kyle Rideout. A Gravitas/Netflix release.
Running time: 1:26