The School of Rock Review
By Shawn McKenzie 10/03/2003
I’ve always thought that Jack Black was funny, but I wouldn’t ever say that he was “family friendly.” His new movie, School of Rock, would fit in that category though.
Dewey Finn (Black) is the wild and crazy lead guitarist of a rock and roll band. After one too many 20-minute guitar solos and stage dives, his own band decides to fire him. They want to make the big time, and they think Dewey is holding them back. Since his band hasn’t been making too much money, he tends to sponge off his roommate and former bandmate Ned Schneebly (Mike White, who also wrote the screenplay.) Ned’s girlfriend, Patty (Sarah Silverman), is fed up with Dewey, and makes Ned demand that he come up with his part of the rent by the end of the week, or they will kick him out. Dewey tries forming a new band, but everyone seems to think that he is a joke. One day, Principal Delores Mullins (Joan Cusack) of the prestigious private Horace Green Elementary School calls looking for Ned. Patty has apparently shamed Ned into giving up his dreams of being a rock star and settle for being a substitute teacher. Dewey decides to pose as Ned to collect what he considers an easy paycheck babysitting a group of kids. When he meets the fifth grade class, he is thrown off by how Poindexter-like they are. He figures that he can help these kids by teaching them about “The Man,” i.e. whoever is holding them down and not allowing them to succeed. He also has them have recess time frequently. One day, the kids go to their assigned music class, and Dewey hears their playing through a vent. He likes what he hears, and checks out their class to confirm that they are in fact, very musically talented. When they come back to his class, he has his rock instruments there. He tells them that they are going to participate in a class project called “Rock Band.” They are going to get a jump on other schools by participating in the local “Battle of the Bands.” He doesn’t want them to tell their parents or Principal Mullins because it is “top secret.” The core band consists of Zach (Joey Gaydos), the lead guitarist; Freddy (Kevin Clark), the drummer; Katie (Rebecca Brown), the bass player; and Lawrence (Robert Tsai), the keyboardist. He has roles for everyone in the class though. Tomika, Aliesha, and Marta (Maryam Hassan, Aleisha Allen, and Caitlin Hale) are the backup singers. Summer Hathaway (Miranda Cosgrove), the class factotum, takes control as the band manager (after originally being assigned as a Groupie.) Billy (Brian Falduto) is the flamboyant, Liza Minnelli-loving stylist for the group in charge of designing the costumes. Gordon (Zachary Infante), the special effects wiz, and Marco (James Hosey), the computer genius, are in charge of the stage show, including the lighting and special effects. Frankie (Angelo Massagli) and Leonard (Cole Hawkins) are in charge of security, which includes watching out for Mullins. Eleni and Michelle (Veronica Afflerbach and Jordan-Claire Green) are the Groupies, or as Dewey puts it, the “band cheerleaders,” and are given the job of coming up with a band name, which becomes the School of Rock. Dewey is, of course, the lead singer. After hearing their musical inspirations are artists like Christina Aguilera and Puff Daddy, he decides also to give them music history and music appreciation classes along with band practice. As time goes on and they prepare for the Battle, Dewey discovers that he is also teaching several of them some self-confidence. Zach’s dad thinks rock music is a waste of time, but Zach is a talented guitarist and a budding songwriter. Lawrence doesn’t think he’s cool enough to be in the band, but Dewey assures him that he is cool. Tomika was originally on security, but later became a back-up singer. She thinks she is too fat to be onstage until Dewey points out her talent and his personal girth. Dewey tells Mullins that he wants to take the kids on a “field trip” (which is the front for the Battle.) She doesn’t allow it, but he hears from another teacher a way to make her highly agreeable. He takes her out for a beer and plays Stevie Nick’s “Edge of Seventeen” on the jukebox. She grooves to the song and agrees to the field trip. Now it is up to him to get the School of Rock to the Battle without Mullins, the parents, Ned, or Patty finding out, where he will possibly win the prize money and maybe become a huge rock superstar.
Don’t let the PG-13 rating fool you, this one is perfectly okay for kids. In fact, it would be great for them. Besides exposing them to some great rock music from the ‘60s and ‘70s, it would teach them that you are as cool as you feel and that you shouldn’t give up on your dreams, even when you are down.
Does the movie water down Black? Not in the slightest. I believe a truly talented comic actor can be funny in a raunchy comedy format and a family friendly one, and Black proves that talent in this movie. Black’s musical talents (he is one-half of the comedy rock band Tenacious D) heighten this specific movie, since musical talent plays heavily in it.
Only two things bugged me about the movie. First, Falduto’s character of Billy is obviously suggested that he is gay. I don’t have a problem with that, but it is highly stereotyped, and one of the rare unfunny running gags. Second, the ending is way too neatly wrapped up. I don’t want to spoil things, but it involves the attitudes of the parents.
School of Rock is director Richard Linklater’s first truly commercial movie, and he hit it out of the park. After some great indie flicks like Dazed and Confused and SubUrbia, he seems to be ready to do more studio films. Working with Black was a great decision, because, following Shallow Hal, he is on a leading man role. Take your kids to this movie and enroll them in the School of Rock!
Get the soundtrack containing two songs by the School of Rock, plus classic tunes by the Ramones, the Doors, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Nicks, and more:
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