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School of Rock (2003)

PG-13 108 minutes

Directed by Richard Linklater
Written by Mike White

 · Jack Black
 · Joan Cusack

Review by Thom Stricklin

For quite some time, I've had two opinions of Jack Black: one of Black, the musician; the other, Jack the "actor".  The famous half of rock-comedy duo Tenacious D, Black is zany, but spirited, and reverential (in an odd way) to music.  As an actor, he's just zany.  He's made me laugh, but I haven't been impressed.

I was quite surprised, then, to hear the rave reviews about School of Rock, so I decided to see what the fuss was all about.  Well folks, here's another rave review.




Jack Black does not is not "acting" in the film, so much as he is slipping into his pre-established on-stage persona.  He's absolutely insane, but his dementia has focus.  In a lot of ways, he reminds me of John Belushi, who always seemed at his best when he had a mic in hand and was singin' the blues.  But to Black's credit, he has a much more welcoming personality, and I couldn't picture Belushi cleaning up his crude humor for a kid-safe movie as Jack Black did, surprisingly well.

Speaking of childproof, I don't hide the fact that I'm tough on kid's movies.  The only children's film I recall liking in recent history that didn't feature a Pixar lamp at the beginning was Daddy Day Care, and that was more of a "guy movie" with kids in the foreground.  But I consider School of Rock a great film for kids and adults.  Most films that label themselves as such fail, I feel, by being condescending towards children--treating them as though they are stupid, honestly.  School of Rock treats its kids as equals, if not with greater esteem than its adults, and that's gold.

I'll be honest...  This film exhibits no masterpiece of a plot, or of character development, or any of the characteristics I normally look for in a well-made movie.  Perhaps it may seem I'm too generous, but School of Rock has in spades something very few films have: heart.  It's obvious this film was written, directed, and especially acted with heart, especially with a love for rock 'n' roll.




That's right, I'm talkin' Rock & Roll, baby!!! I was trying to form comparisons for this film, that it was laid-back Dead Poets Society witk a punk rock attitude, or a much, much cooler Sister Act, but in the end, I felt such comparisons did little justice.  School of Rock is amazing and charming, but it's even more so if you don't consider it a film.  Instead, think again about the title, and consider it a lesson in the history and appreciation of rock 'n' roll.

I wish I could sit in a class and force every teeny-bopper, every Britney or Avril wannabe, every high-pitched screeching New Found Glory fangirl to watch.  This is what music is all about, at least when there's meaning to it.  Rock wasn't about looking cool, getting wasted or scoring--well, not entirely--nor about bling-blingin' or dancing or vibrating, or anything it seems music and even "rock" is about today.  Rock was a feeling, a connection.  Rock was a way to send a message, to--as the movie so aptly puts it--"sticking it to the man." And School of Rock teaches us (or refreshes us, for the luckier ones) all about that.  It reminded me why I picked up a guitar for the first time, nearly eight years ago, why I wrote songs and really had my first personal exposure into any sort of art.  It reminded me about the importance of self-expression, another seeming rarity.

As I said before, Jack Black was terrific in his role, but the rest of the cast shouldn't be overlooked.  Joan Cusack, whom I didn't even know was in the movie, is the dark horse, absolutely hilarious in her role as the strict but repressed Principal Mullins. Then, there are the kids...  I believe they were chosen for their musical abilities, which seemed superb from all I could tell, but there are definitely a few lookers and scene-stealers in that crowd, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a few of them build film careers out of this opportunity.



Anyone should enjoy School of Rock.  I can't see anyone coming out of this film dissatisfied, unless you're one of the aforementioned teeny-boppers (to you I apologize for a number of reasons), in which case you may feel alienated by the concept of music having actual meaning.  But kids, adults, old hippies and average working-class mothers and fathers alike should find something of interest contained in this film.  Don't be expecting some brilliant work of art--it is a Jack Black flick, after all--but give this movie a chance, and I think you'll like it.

To borrow from a Tenacious D song: "This is not the greatest film in the world--this is just a tribute!" And it's a mighty fine tribute at that.

784 Words Published: 15 October 2003

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