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  • PG
  • Comedy, Family
  • 2003
  • 109 mins

School Of Rock

School Of Rock

Synopsis

Jack Black stars as a wannabe rock 'n' roller who, masquerading as a substitute teacher, inspires his kids in the art of heavy riffing.

Critic's Review

Jack Black - loudmouth, comic actor, rock musician. Often, the films he appears in (High Fidelity, Orange County) constrain him, his robustly over-the-top persona straining at the seams. School Of Rock was created as a vehicle for Black, but it's still not entirely right. It's a kid's movie after all, and the louder, lewder side of Black is restrained. However, his energy is far from diminished.

Black plays Dewey Finn, a rocker whose over-the-top on-stage antics (impromptu guitar solos, stage-diving) get him kicked out of the band he formed. If that wasn't bad enough, his old friend and former band-mate Ned Schneebly (Mike White, who also wrote the script) is getting pressured by his uptight girlfriend (Sarah Silverman) to get Dewey to pay some rent. "He's a lazy freeloader," she concludes, but Dewey insists: "I serve society by rocking." When Ms Mullins (Joan Cusack), the principal of a prestigious prep school phones up to offer substitute teacher Ned a job, Dewey, desperate for cash, spins a lie and takes the job in his place.

The single-minded Dewey, uninterested in anything beyond rock music, doesn't fit at Horace Green Elementary School and tries to laze the days away, giving his pupils endless recess. But then he chances upon the music class, and seeing just how talented his kids are, decides to mould them into a rock band. His plan is to enter his new, pre-teen outfit in the local Battle of the Bands. Can he make rockers from the nice middle-class school children? And can he pull off his plan without Mullins, or any of the parents (who pay "$15,000 a year") rumbling him?

Now, the movie plot spun around the inspirational teacher is not just a staple, it's verges on hoary. Think everything from The Blackboard Jungle to Mona Lisa Smile, by way of Dead Poets Society. White and Black even sneak in tiny gags at the expense of some of these: Dewey declares himself "El Capitano" in a riff on the "Captain, my captain" blather of Dead Poets Society.

Mostly, however, the film's comedy is based around Black's brand of bluster and mad eyes, and the notion of making a bunch of prissy kids (a veritable Benetton billboard of types, from the reserved fat girl with a secretly amazing voice to the camp kid who gets the costume design gig) into purveyors of heavy rock.

Along the way, we swing along to a gently anti-authoritarian beat, with Dewey insisting rock 'n' roll is a way to "stick it to The Man". However, this being a family film, he can't exactly incite revolution, and instead is satisfied to teach the kids to tell oppressors to "step off". Linklater and White's film also neatly sidesteps rock culture's more depraved elements, with Dewey insisting groupies aren't "sluts" they're more like "cheerleaders". He also advocates the artistic passion of the music. "Rock ain't about getting loaded and acting like a jerk," he says. In other words, no sex, no drugs, just rock and roll.

Although the film may bring adults more cringes than out-and-out laughs (Black has to pretend his electric guitar is in class as a teaching aid, embarrassingly singing "Math is a really cool thing") and the lesser characters are all somewhat shunted aside by Black (Cusack gets a subplot, which incarnates authority learning to loosen up), School Of Rock is an amusing, sweet film. It sidesteps the cliche of the inspirational teacher with gentle inducement to find your own path among the rules and regulations of the authorities.

In a nutshell: A strangely successful hybrid of the indie sensibilities of Richard Linklater and Mike White, the brash comedy of Jack Black and the mainstream requirements of a Hollywood studio kids' flick.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Sarah Silverman, Jack Black, Mike White, Joey Gaydos Jr, Joan Cusack, Miranda Cosgrove
  • Director: Richard Linklater
  • Screen Writer: Mike White
  • Producer: Scott Rudin
  • Photographer: Rogier Stoffers
  • Composer: Warren Fitzgerald, Mike White, Jack Black, Craig Wedren

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