It's easy to assume that filmmaker Don Argott took his cameras over to a "rock school" in Philadelphia because he wanted to make a film about young, gifted, and hard-working musicians. What it seems that Mr. Argott got instead was an expose of one truly amazing egotist. Paul Green, self-proclaimed music expert and proprietor of "Rock School," clearly has just as much passion for rock music as he has outright chutzpah ... but it takes a lot more than that to be an actual teacher.
Paul's school is virtually littered with needy young musicians, teenagers who delight in the vulgar tirades of their immature "authority figure" -- but mainly the kids seem to congregate there as a means to meet other music-obsessed peers, and not because Paul Green is any sort of miracle worker.
But it's the portrait of Green, combined with the inspirational work of the kiddie musicians, that make Rock School a fairly entertaining little rock-doc. You'll spend most of the running time rolling your eyes at Green's outright obnoxiousness, but there's just enough time spent on the actual music to remind you of why you rented the flick in the first place.
Argott's camera moves in decidedly ironic styles; at some moments you're certain that the filmmaker admires Paul Green and his teaching techniques -- while at other moments you just know that Argott's saying "Sheesh, what a boob this guy is." Best of all, the footage is balanced perfectly, which means that those who think Paul Green is a keening buffoon AND those who believe he's an untraditional genius can both walk out of the flick feeling satisfied.
But if Green's insanity is the focal point of the film, then it's the kids who salvage the show. Even the mini-musicians who are still kinda rusty play their positions with remarkable dedication and passion ... plus there are a few who really are fantastic!
As Rock School plays on, and while you're enjoying the young music-makers' numerous talents, just ask yourself this: Would you want your kid to be enrolled in his rock "school"? Frankly ... no effing way. The guy roams the halls before his own hand-picked idolizers, tossing out meaningless platitudes before picking fights with drama-hungry teenage girls and (as always) reminding his mini-kingdom of how awesome he is. The guy's spending his life as a glorified camp counselor ... the one who gets just a little too friendly with his charges.
But despite my unease with Green himself, Rock School does a fine job of exposing the guy's non-traditional methods, plus it sheds a generous light on a few mega-talented young rockers. (Someone get these kids a few real music teachers!)
Video: The low-budget documentary is presented in a rather crisp Widescreen (1.78:1) Anamorphic transfer. Picture quality is quite excellent, all things considered, and fans of the film will undoubtedly appreciate the strong picture quality.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, which delivers the tunes in fine form, but I wouldn't have minded a nice 5.1 track! Optional subtitles are available in English.
Extras: You'll get no less than 20 deleted scenes, several of which were probably cut because, well, Paul Green gets pretty damn goofy at times. Several of the excised scenes contain more musical material from the students, so be sure to pick through and find some of the better clips. Also included are trailers for Rock School, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Lords of Dogtown, and Steamboy.
The standout, extras-wise, is the feature-length audio commentary with director Don Argott, producer Sheena Joyce, and editor Demian Fenton. The trio combine to deliver an info-packed, laid-back, and generally enjoyable yak-track.
Where you'll find a bunch of raucous and talented kids, you'll find at least one glory-hungry grown-up intent on stealing the spotlight. You'll find a whole lot of that in Rock School, although for the sequel, I'd ask for more of the kids and less of the over-caffeinated man-child.