School of Rock (2003)


Ebert:1/2 San Francisco Examiner:TV Guide:

The School of Rock like totally rocks!  It's a kick-ass family film that grown ups will probably enjoy even more than their kids.  Grown-ups who rock that is!  If you are unfamiliar with the classic rock majesty of bands like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, The Ramones, Rush and T-Rex you will probably not get 80% of the jokes.  But if you know that "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Want to Rock 'n' Roll)"  then you're gonna be good to go.  

This movie is hilariously funny and wonderfully touching at the same time.  As Jack Black, playing a fake substitute teacher, explains to a group of concerned parents "I have been touched by all of your children, and I can tell you for sure that I have touched them."   It's jokes like this that make School of Rock one of the funniest movies of the year.  

After he is kicked out of his own band for being an embarrassment, slacker local rocker Dewey Finn (Jack Black) is cornered by his room mate Ned for his share of the rent.  Unable to come up with the money and without his meager band income, Dewey takes a call for Ned, pretends he is Ned and takes a substitute teaching job at a local private school.  He is put in charge of a room full of 10 year olds and soon finds that some of them have limited musical abilities.  In Dewey's mind this is his big chance.  He tricks the class into becoming a rock band fronted by Dewey himself and signs them up for the local Battle of the Bands.  

Instead of the Kindergarten Cop or Daddy Day Care stupid festival that this movie could easily have become, it is a sharp, witty and clever fantasy that makes you feel really great!  Dewey is not a fat slob-rocker who is redeemed at the end and learns a lesson from the kids who in turn learn a lesson from him.  He remains a fat slob rocker throughout the entire film and the kids retain much of their annoying character traits as well.  The only thing anyone in the film has learned at the end is how to channel their dysfunction into a pretty good 5th grade rock and roll band.  And that's why this is a great movie.  

I love Jack Black.  I love his energy.  I love the way this fat but completely unselfconscious goofball who looks like he just barely cheated Downs Syndrome has such a maniac gleeful lust for life.  He is drop-dead fall-down funny.  To see him at his unplugged best try and catch some of HBO's Tenacious D shows which are coming out on DVD later this month.  I highly recommend it.  He is perfect as the slacker Dewey Finn and his well honed improvisational rock skills make this the role he was born to play.  Joan Cusack is also delightful as the terse principal who has a soft side that she is forced to surpress.

The children all do a great job with their roles as well.  The best part about them is that they seem to be actual kids instead of movie actor kids playing the roles of regular kids.   I loved the precocious girl named Summer and her constant desire for recognition and need to be the teacher's pet.  I liked the kid named Kevin who is the angry spaz of the class and therefore the perfect one to place behind the drum kit.  The moody guitarist Zack is just like the real moody guitarist and true leader of most bands in real life.  And there's the  nerdy keyboard player and fat back-up singer who are worried that they are not cool enough to be in the band until Dewey shows by example that a fat nerd can be a rock star and so can they.  

The film ends with the afore mentioned Battle of the Bands and a somewhat predictable conclusion but by the time the concert is over you are practically standing in your chair, pumping your fist in the air with a salute to Rock.  I stood outside the theatre at the end of the film and watched the other people as they exited.  They were the happiest bunch of movie goers I've seen in quite some time.  Everyone was raving and laughing about some moment from the film and I'm sure you will too.  Now get the Led out and Rock on!