By Allegra Papera
Netflix original series “American Vandal” surpasses viewers’ low expectations, instead offering a genuinely entertaining crime mockumentary.
Netflix original crime mockumentary “American Vandal” cracks viewers up with its teenage narrator’s tireless dedication to a rather trivial investigation, hilarious subplots, and thoroughly diverse characterization. However, the end of the series suffers from its failure to offer complete closure for viewers.
“American Vandal,” is set at a modern-day high school in Oceanside, California, in the wake of a crime in which spray painted “dicks,” as they are referred to throughout the series, are graffitied onto 27 cars in the school’s staff parking lot, resulting in $100,000 in damages.
The school board quickly convicts the slacker with a reputation for pranking, Dylan Maxwell (Jimmy Tatro), of the vandalism as soon as one of the school’s star students Alex Trimboli (Calum Worthy) claims to have seen him do it. However, Dylan claims his innocence, so two student filmmakers, Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam Ecklund (Griffin Gluck), document their investigation that seeks to discover who really committed the crime.
The most important aspect of the series is Peter’s dedication to creating an honest, to-be-taken-seriously documentary out of such an absurd crime. Even while Peter and Sam go about their investigation in a meticulous and intelligent, it’s impossible to forget the nature of the crime they want to solve. This clever form of irony creates a strong foundation for a sincerely entertaining series.
What managed to keep the series alive throughout its eight-episode run, however, was its divergence from the main objective of proving Dylan innocent and into plenty of amusing subplots that explore the nuances of this particular high school.
For example, Alex Trimboli, the one alleged eye-witness of the crime, had his integrity thrown into question when the filmmakers were informed of his claim that he “got to third base” with the hottest girl at school; Alex is portrayed as an unattractive and inexplicably pompous character, so his story is hard to believe. Sub plots like this help keep the audience engaged and laughing throughout the series.
In addition, “American Vandal” does a great job of thoroughly developing the unique characters found on a high school campus, as variety is key. The series portrays characters ranging from the burnout Dylan to the untrustworthy academic superstar Alex Trimboli and an outspoken activist/senior class President, Christa Carlyle. This wide-ranging exhibition of the school’s unique characters helps the show stray from the mundane.
However, “American Vandal” did have one massive flaw: it never actually exposes the criminal. While the series explores a trivial crime, its documentation still manages to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. When the series ends without a clear-cut answer, audiences are left unsatisfied.
Netflix’s “American Vandal” surprisingly managed to impress viewers, proving that even the cheesiest of mockumentaries can serve genuine entertainment value, as well as some good laughs.
“American Vandal” is available to stream on Netflix.