|SCHOOL OF ROCK (2003)|
|"I pledge allegiance to the band."|
|Time: 108 mins.|
Jack Black is not the conventional Hollywood movie star and for that we should all be thankful. His high voltage charisma spices up every film he’s in and it’s about time he was giving a chance to shine in a film of his own. With SCHOOL OF ROCK, he’s found the perfect outlet for his manic, no-holds-barred approach to comedy. Starring alongside a group of ten-year-olds finally gives him a cast on par with his level of maturity, which in this case, is a very funny thing. He plays Dewey Finn, a never-has-been rock-and-roll guitarist with no band and even less of a future, but with a hardcore dream to create music that is pure. With the rent due, he has to place that dream on hold to earn some quick cash to pay his roommate Ned (White), a substitute teacher, or be kicked out of the apartment. When Principal Mullins (Cusack) calls Ned, desperately seeking an immediate replacement for one of their teachers, Dewey accepts the job on his behalf. After all, how hard could it be to teach a bunch of kids?
Of course, Dewey has no intention of actually doing any work; he’s just in it for the money. That he could get into serious trouble for impersonating Ned never crosses his mind. He figures the kids would be thrilled to be able to continually goof off, but boredom quickly sets in. After hearing them in music class, he comes up with a plan that will enable him to reach his dream winning the local Battle of the Bands while giving the class something to do. The students are wary at first, especially when he insists on keeping their new “class project” a secret, but are soon swayed by the passion and creativity of being in a real band. They, of course, hit many roadblocks on their way to the big stage, but their journey to the concert is a clever and funny one. Dewey’s secret is eventually exposed; placing the band’s chance to shine in jeopardy and sending his life back to square one. What Dewey eventually discovers is that he’s a better teacher than he ever imagined. His class refuses to give up their rock-and-roll dreams and together they create a magical concert experience none of them will ever forget.
Black’s impish, bitter and slightly zany performance is at the heart of this film, creating a lovable, yet outrageous character you won’t soon forget. There’s no way anyone would believe he’s a teacher, but that’s where the comedy comes in. Linklater directs him perfectly, reeling him in just before Dewey gets annoying. While the film concentrates on the classroom antics, it’s joyous, silly and fun. When Dewey has to deal with Ned and his super-bitch girlfriend (played by Silverman), the enjoyment level drops like a stone. Black walks all over Silverman and White, who are so stiff and awkward their scenes are painful to watch. Thankfully, though their roles are necessary, they’re also small. Cusack is the only adult in the film on the same talent level as Black. She actually manages to steal a few scenes from him, which is not an easy feat. They make an extremely odd, yet hysterical comedy duo I hope someone has the sense to pair together onscreen again.
His compatriots in rock, the class of kids, also hold their own, generating some truly sweet and wacky moments to be proud of. Neither super cute nor annoyingly precocious, they all behave like normal everyday 10-year-olds, for which I was extremely grateful. Their various subplots are far from unique or surprising, but these young actors conquer their troubles with a simple honesty that warms the heart while eliciting a chuckle. You want to see them perform and, believe me, they don’t disappoint. Whether it’s true talent or mere acting doesn’t make a bit of difference. Their onstage performance is undeniably awesome and will have you dancing in the aisles. SCHOOL OF ROCK definitely makes the grade, providing fun for the whole family. That many kids in the audience are probably just as ignorant about classic rock as the film’s young stars shouldn’t ruin its’ appeal. In fact, it will most certainly turn them on to some great artists previously unknown to them. While ROCK is certainly not an instant classic, it will leave you with a smile on your face and a renewed love of rock-and-roll.