Matt Porter, Max Azulay, Phil Primason, Mallory Westfall
Max Azulay, Timothy J. Cox
Max (Max Azulay) is about to start his first week of teaching health at a middle school. The only problem? He's somehow attracted Gunderson's, a new sexually transmitted disease with but a single symptom.
Gunderson's, a 14-minute short film directed by Matt Porter, requires a tremendous suspension of belief, not just for the lunacy of its basic set-up but also simply to accept the awkwardly inappropriate Max as a potential teacher of any subject.
As played by Max Azulay, Max is one of those "cool" teachers who gets hired mainly because they seemingly have the ability to connect with students on a "real" level. While Max isn't quite as far out there as was Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher, he is a teacher who in this day and age would likely find himself brought before the school's board for a variety of reasons ranging from inappropriate language to just plain ole' bad teaching. While there's no question that Gunderson's is intended as a comedy, it's a comedy that requires a believable foundation to fuel the laughs that will follow.
Gunderson's actually works far more than you might initially expect, mostly owing to Azulay's laid back and frequently funny demeanor running parallel with Timothy J. Cox's hilariously larger-than-life turn as the school's principal. The fact that Gunderson's has actually been pulled from a larger project and turned into a short helps to explain why the film actually feels like it should be a lengthier project, with both Cox and Azulay planting the seeds here for terrific characters that you'd be interested in getting to know a bit more. Even though his character is frequently lacking in the believability department, Azulay does such a nice job of bringing him to life that you very nearly forgive the gaps in the story. The same is true for Timothy J. Cox, who manages to take relatively little screen time and make you sit there wanting more.
Porter also serves as the film's D.P., and lenses the film quite nicely with particular kudos going for his work framing the shots of Max interacting with his physician, his students and with the principal.
Porter, who won the prize for Best "Under 18" short at Shriekfest in 2004 for Semi-Colon, serves up a promising short film here that benefits greatly from its excellent casting (including the kids in the classroom) and Porter's own fine camera work. While the story itself stretches the boundaries of believability, it does so in a way that entertains and leaves a smile on your face.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic