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School of Rock

Paramount // PG-13 // October 3, 2003
List Price: Unknown

Review by Megan Denny | posted October 2, 2003 | E-mail the Author
School of Rock

Dewey Finn is a down-and-out aspiring rockstar who is having the worst day of his life. First his roommate Ned threatens him with eviction if he doesn't pay rent, then he is kicked out of his own band. But everything changes with just one phone call. Dewey, impersonating his roommate Ned, accepts a position as a substitute teacher.

His pupils turn out to be a class of 5th graders at Horrace Green elementary, the top school in the state. The class is full of overachievers who are more interested in math and history than all-day recess. When the kids fail to be inspired by Dewey's lecture on "The Man," and grouse that they aren't receiving an education in return for the pricey tuition, it seems Dewey's scam will soon be revealed. Luckily, the class turns out to be full of musical prodigies.

Under the pretenses of a "state-wide band competition," Dewey assembles the kids into a rock band which he plans to enter in to the local Battle of the Bands competition. The cash prize is enough to pay Dewey's debts, and it keeps the kids from revealing him as a fraud.

School of Rock is a surprisingly mainstream-style film, especially given the indie. roots of the director (Richard Linklater), writer (Mike White of Chuck and Buck fame), and star Jack Black. School of Rock is edgier than, say, Mr. Holland's Opus, but compared to the previous work of the aforementioned trio, it's fairly mild.

The highlights of the film are Black's music lessons with the kids. It's tough to tell what is improvised and what is scripted, but there are flashes of complete genius. My favorite moments were the guitar lessons. In one scene, Dewey sets up the timid fifth-grader in the "Flying V" stance and encourages him to, "Bug your eyes out like somethin's raise the goblet of rock!"

School of Rock was better than I expected mostly because of the kids. They're not cutesy or one-dimensional, and there's only one brat in the bunch. This is why School of Rock succeeds where Daddy Daycare and others fail. There are enough badly-behaved kids in the audience these days, I don't want to see them on screen as well. Luckily, all the School of Rock kids are totally down-too-earth and they play their own instruments.

The only thing I didn't like about School of Rock was the treatment of the female characters. Joan Cusack is great as the uptight principal, but the role is totally flat and stereotypical; Cusack's talents are wasted. Ditto for Sarah Silverman as the annoying girlfriend, the only other adult female character. There's only one girl in the band (surprise, she's the bass player AND she's the only one who doesn't get a solo). There's a brief discussion about female drummers (and a well-deserved jab at Meg White) but other than that, there isn't a lot in this movie that supports the notion that girls can do more than sing or be a pushy broad behind the scenes. Okay, end of soapbox.

Overall, School of Rock is an entertaining film for anyone over the age of eleven. PG-13 Jack Black isn't anywhere near as funny as R-rated Jack Black, but he still pulls off solid laughs in the film without a single "f-word," "c-word," "s-word," or "m'r f-er" and it's impossible to imagine anyone else in this role. As he shouts to the children "Let's get out there and melt some faces!" You can't help but laugh and wish you knew someone like Dewey Finn when you were eleven.

-Megan A. Denny




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