Richard Linklater's School of Rock (2003) was the director's first venture into the murky world of PG-13 comedy, but he came out pretty much unscathed. This hardly an original movie, though: at its core, it's about a bunch of underdogs that band together and attempt to succeed in the face of blah blah blah. But thanks to a number of great performances, memorable characters, plenty of heart and a boatload of musical talent, School of Rock ends up being more than the sum of its parts. It...*sigh*...rocks.
Jack Black stars as Dewey Finn, a talented but down-and-out rocker with a penchant for procrastination. He's behind on the rent, but lifelong friend and roommate Ned (Mike White, who also wrote the film) lets Dewey's behavior slide...much to the dismay of Ned's domineering girlfriend, Patty (Sarah Silverman). Though Dewey realizes he might have to give up music, he intercepts a phone call about a substitute teaching gig that's meant for Ned. Against what most folks would call "better judgment", Dewey decides to take the plunge and impersonate Ned at the prestigious Horace Green Prep School, not realizing that misrepresentation and possible check forgery aren't exactly equal to "pulling your own weight".
Anyway, that's just the setup. School of Rock is really about Ned's goofball approach to teaching, and one that gradually leads to acceptance on both sides of the classroom. His natural gift for music brings out the hidden talents of many students, and it's not long before Dewey attempts to corral the kids into performing at a Battle of the Bands to earn some extra cash. But beneath the film's formulaic and over- the-top exterior lies a funny and heartfelt comedy, and one that anyone with a shred of love for music should be able to enjoy on more than one occasion. School of Rock is almost a throwback to underdog comedies of decades past...and in lesser hands, it would've crumbled under the comparison.
Originally released on DVD by Paramount eight years ago, School of Rock's transition to DVD is a fairly open-and-shut case: we're simply granted a visual upgrade and treated to the same batch of extras as before. Perhaps the only drawback to this release is that it's a Best Buy exclusive, although a wide release will probably occur further down the line. In any case, this is a great package that fans should have no trouble revisiting...and if you're new to the film, it's a pretty solid jumping-on point.
Video & Audio Quality
2004's Special Collector's Edition DVD looked pretty good for its time, but this 1080p transfer offers a notable, satisfying improvement across the board. Presented in a slightly opened up 1.78:1 aspect ratio---as opposed to the theatrical 1.85:1---we get a wonderfully detailed image with no excessive digital manipulation. Colors are accurate, textures are consistently crisp and black levels are deep and rich from start to finish. A fine layer of film grain is also apparent. Overall, this work was done with care (not surprising for a Paramount title), and that's more than I can say for most Blu-Ray catalog releases.
HEADS UP: This review's screen captures are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-Ray's fancy-pants 1080p resolution.
We also get a nice upgrade in the audio department, as this music-heavy film is blessed with a robust DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix; French, Spanish and Portuguese dubs are also available in Dolby Digital 5.1. This is largely a front-heavy mix, but the frequent music cues are clear, crisp and powerful. Surround channels are also reserved for occasional background ambience...but any way you slice it, this is a great-sounding disc that fans will appreciate. Optional English, English SDH, Spanish, French and Portuguese subtitles are also included during the main feature and most of the extras (see below).
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen below, the menu designs are simple and easy to navigate...but for some strange reason, they're completely silent. This one-disc release is housed in a stupid eco-friendly keepcase and includes no slipcover or inserts. Much like other Paramount Blu-Ray releases, School Of Rock
is a region-free disc.
Nothing new for this Blu-Ray release, but at least all of the extras from the 2004 Special Collector's Edition DVD
have been ported over. Recycled material includes two Audio Commentaries
(one featuring director Richard Linklater and Jack Black, the other featuring the kids), a laid-back but informative Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
(25 minutes), Jack Black's passionate Pitch to Led Zeppelin
(4 minutes), an obligatory Music Video
for the eponymous song (4 minutes), the Kids' Video Diary
filmed at the 2004 Toronto Film Festival (8 minutes), an episode of MTV Diary
featuring Jack Black (17 minutes), an Interactive History of Rock
lesson with Dewey Finn, and the original Theatrical Trailer
All bonus features are presented in full screen or letterboxed 480p...save for the trailer, which gets a nice 1080p bump. Optional English subtitles have been included during all applicable bonus features.
School of Rock
is a formulaic but fun family film loaded with solid performances, plenty of laughs, lots of heart and a killer soundtrack. It's also the quintessential Jack Black vehicle (aside from his scene-stealing performance in High Fidelity
), thanks to a role that consistently plays to his unique "musical goofball" abilities. Paramount's Blu-Ray offers a suitably improved A/V presentation and the same well-rounded collection of bonus features from the Special Collector's Edition DVD
. Overall, School of Rock
is definitely worth an upgrade if you plan on watching it more than a few times. Firmly Recommended
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey from Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.