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6 Degrees Entertainment

(DVD / NR / (2006) 2010 / Anhedenia Films)

Overview: '1985-1986' is a coming-of-age story about a 12-year-old boy named Erol who begins attending a new middle school in a rough neighborhood. With a new environment to master, Erol ends up falling in with a bad crowd and is introduced to a world of smoking, alcohol, drugs and punk rock. Ultimately, Erol realizes that the best person he can be is himself.

DVD Verdict: Based on a true story - so we're informed at the start - '1985-1986' (at its core) may well be animation at its simplest, but it also spins a tale that a lot of people can themselves look back on with the very same fondest of school memories.

The character of Erol Jacobs narrates throughout, but it's his tale of joining a new school for his 7th grade year that we primarily focus on. The backdrops, the incidental music, all can become tiresome as you progress, but for at least two-thirds of the film you are engrossed - or at least, you should be.

Erol talks about having no new friends at this new school, Vince Junior High, and tells the story of how a 12 year-old tries all he can to fit in - and yet fails (miserably) each and every time.

In truth, most all this (long) tale is sad news for Erol. I mean sure, he gets spunkier as the film unwinds, but for the most part he's either getting threatened, actually getting beaten up, throwing parties where either his mother throws his friends out or his brother throws up, attempting to run away, being part of a (unsuccessful) school thug outfit called the Vince Death Squad, or simply being down-trodden by society in general.

It's a one-shot premise that is drawn out about 20 minutes too long, but at no time can you turn it off, because you just have to know how it ends. Which is a sign of a great director.

And, as much as this animation is indeed basic, one dimensional, writer, producer, editor, animator and director Evan Jacobs certainly knows how to convey a characters drawn expression; their collective vocal inflections are also superb throughout. And, the fact that the lead character, Erol, sounds like calm, young Ray Romano (even though our hero is Jewish) doesn't hurt either! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1).

Reviewed by: Russell A. Trunk