Some stories are perfect for no other reason than the love of the storyteller. When it comes to a film, the writing still remains that ‘make or break’ element of it. The second would be the acting, and finally, at the end, all the details. In an excellent movie, like All Time High, the details are just an added bonus, like a cherry on top, but the cake remains the first two things. That is what makes All Time High so perfect. Admittedly, it is not funny right off the bat. The first ten minutes are a struggle with trying to understand exactly what is happening and why that is so. But all of that will come together soon enough.
Secondly, the comedy of the movie is constant and makes one realize just how internalized humor is for some characters. They don’t just spot or make the occasional joke; they are indeed those exact kinds of irritating people who consider everything to be a joke. I have often wondered who such people could actually end up with, without driving them up the walls, and this movie seems to answer that it would be an equally unhinged person. Such a relationship makes sense on paper but is beyond the understanding of sane people. However, these remain our favorite kinds of stories. People who are compelled by the force of their feelings to acknowledge that what they actually want is different from what they thought they wanted are our favorite kind of lovebirds. A classic example of this would be the evergreen Rhett Butler and Scarlet O Hara, and after that, many decades later, in an obscure part of the internet, it is Youssef and Stephanie. It is not a comparison of the iconicity of the couple, but simply a statement of why these kinds of couples are so entertaining.
Before I gush about them more, let us talk about how on-point the comedy of the movie is. It wasn’t simply because of the writing but also because of the timing of the actors and even their conviction in it. Nassim Lyes is not just playing Youssef, he is Youssef. Every character pales in comparison to what this man is able to bring to the screen. But you may find yourself developing a soft spot for Butterfly’s cousin, whose comic timing is the only thing to rival Youssef’s. Our only complaint is that he was not given more screen time because his expressions and body comedy were on point. And the fact that he was the only character who could stand up to the villain made it extra hilarious because of the element of danger.
Essentially, the movie had a lot of people getting in the other person’s face, a depiction of questionable hygiene, and way too much-animated energy, but for some reason, it all made sense. I haven’t seen the actors’ work before, but it was they who made the over-the-top slapstick work. It is impossible to imagine anyone else other than Nassim Lyes being as ridiculous as Youssef. Even Butterfly and his cousin were so on point that the jokes tailored themselves to them. However, the actress who played Stephanie could have been different. She did not do a bad job, but the jokes simply did not suit her. Wouldn’t it have been better to get someone whose forehead was actually big and whose teeth were genuinely sticking out rather than the current Stephanie, who made Youssef look nitpicky about this stuff? They were supposed to look like a match made in heaven when he took off his wig, but instead, it started feeling like Youssef may need glasses along with the fake hair. I am saying this in good faith and in the context of the meaning and connotations of the word in the essence of the movie, but Stephanie should have been actually ugly to justify the jokes directed at her.
The most enjoyable part of the movie was the writing itself, which brought together the events. The step-by-step unfolding of the lies of the characters and what makes them as crazy as they are is like a chef’s kiss. The fact to remember while watching the movie is that none of the characters are too bright, either emotionally or otherwise. Youssef is a pathological liar, but so is Stephanie. There is no purpose to their lies except for their own sake. They are simply one of those couples that are doing the world a favor by not being with anybody else, and that is precisely what makes their story so entertaining. It is important to separate our dislike of them from their love story, whose romance is understood only by them.
Other than Butterfly’s cousin, there is one other thing the lack of which irks us, which is the lack of character development in the leads. Youssef and Stephanie are shown to be ace fighters, but the explanation and its logistics are very vague. Additionally, we never understand why they live the way they do. While some explanation can be brought together for Youssef, there is no explanation for Stephanie. What causes someone to live the way she does, with so much despair and such a dire need for company and validation that she makes up stories to such an extent? But coming to the beginning of our point, the incorporation of the comedy into the action scenes was beautiful.
Something that was extremely enjoyable was the work of the voiceover actors. Lately, the translations have been so different from the subtitles on the screen for so many movies and series that I have wondered whether I am watching the story that the writer wanted the audience to. That is not a problem with All Time High, and in fact, the voice actor’s comic timing matches that of the actors on screen, and there is nothing better than that.
It is hard to say whether All Time High will receive the hype it deserves. But it remains a beautiful example of a job well done on various levels. The writing, direction, choreography, costume, editing, and finally, acting were all on point, and this was one of the better hour and a half we have spent on Netflix in a while.