The trailers for School of Rock made it look like a mildly amusing comedy. But when I found out that it was written by Mike White ( Chuck and Buck, The Good Girl), I couldn't wait to see it. Even though my expectations were high for this film, I was pleasantly surprised by how hilarious it was. The audience broke into applause at the end, and I got really thirsty from laughing so much.
Dewey Finn (Jack Black) is a loser. He plays in a local band and has dreams of rock and roll stardom. In the opening scene, Dewey's band is performing at a local club. He plays ridiculously long and outrageous guitar solos, rolling around on the stage, taking off his shirt, and diving into the audience. Unfortunately for Dewey, the mosh pit is empty, and he goes crashing down onto the concrete floor. This image is a perfect analogy for his life.
While Dewey is an unemployed slob, his roommate Ned Schneebly (Mike White) seems to have his life together. Sure, his girlfriend is demanding and overbearing, but she has a good job, and Ned is working as a substitute teacher as he works toward his honorable goal of becoming a full-fledged educator. Dewey owes Ned money for several months' rent and will be evicted by Ned and Patty (Sarah Silverman) if he doesn't pay up soon.
Dewey's plan of winning the local Battle of the Bands to score the money to pay Ned back takes a detour when he is fired from his band. One morning, a phone call arrives with a job offer for Ned. When Dewey realizes that he could make some money by substituting (or "temping," as he calls it), he pretends to be Ned and shows up at the school to start the "gig." As you may have guessed, hilarity ensues.
While normal ten-year-olds would be ecstatic to have a substitute teacher who let them have recess all the time and didn't expect them to do any work, these preppy children actually want to learn, especially the class know-it-all Summer (Miranda Cosgrove).
"Class, I'm hungover," Dewey says. "Does anyone know what that means?"
"You're drunk?" one kid replies.
"Nope. I was drunk yesterday."
Thus, the lessons in cultural literacy begin. Dewey teaches the children to appreciate rock music and how to stick it to "the man." Although Dewey cares about the children (he really is quite sweet with them), he also uses them to further his own rock dreams. Neglecting all other lessons, Dewey leads the class in a project: to form a group and win the Battle of the Bands.
The film asks us to suspend our disbelief that none of the children would mention this secret project to any of their parents or schoolmates and that they could play loud rock music in the classroom without being discovered. Yes, the film is incredibly unrealistic, but it's also amazingly fun.
Some people don't like Jack Black as he is a bit in-your-face and hammy, but he was wonderful in this role. Joan Cusack also shines as the uptight principal with a secret Stevie Nicks obsession. I thought more could have been done with this aspect of the plot. Mike White plays the same character he always does--a dorky guy-- only this one is less creepy than the ones he usually plays. According to a woman I met in the bathroom after the movie who went to Wesleyan with him, he's exactly like that in real life.
The children are adorable and all have unique personalities. I especially liked the shy, Aretha Franklin-esque back-up singer and Zack, the lead guitar player with the controlling father. The effeminate "band stylist" joke got old rather quickly, but the rest of the jokes felt fresh until the end of the film.
The soundtrack features some rock masterpieces like "Sunshine of Your Love" and "The Immigrant Song" (enhanced by Black's screaming) along with some surprisingly good original songs by Black and White. (aww...) Although a little on the screechy side, I think Jack Black actually has a great rock voice.
The School of Rock is an instant classic with many quotable lines. I forsee it being shown on Comedy Central's Saturday afternoon lineup along with Old School and PCU for years to come.
Video Occasion: Good for Groups
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older
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