Here’s the deal, I’m a little hungover today. Does that mean that I’m drunk? No, that means I was drunk yesterday. Anyway, I went to this Battle of the Bands show and saw the craziest act, School of Rock I think it was called. You shoulda seen it, all these little brats burning up the stage… They’re with a substitute teacher, and you know who it is? Dewey Finn, remember that dude? He was in that band, No Vacancy, but they kicked him out? What idiots, mofo is the greatest rock star of all time! He bears a striking resemblance with Tenacious D frontman Jack Black…
Screw it, I’m dropping the gimmick: if Dewey looks, sounds and smells like Jack Black, it’s because he’s a character Black is playing in “The School of Rock”, which is a movie, not a real band I saw yesterday (I’m really hungover, though). The premise is that desperately broke would-be rocker Dewey pretends to be his roommate (Mike White, who also wrote the screenplay) and takes a job as a substitute fifth-grade teacher in a prep school. Obviously this slob can’t actually teach, so he ends up using his students to form a new rock group and compete in the Battle of the Bands. He assigns positions for everyone in the class as musicians, backup singers, roadies, security, manager, stylist, even groupies!
This is a wonderful part for Black, who can hilariously mock rock star attitude better than anybody while actually rocking your socks off. It’s no surprise to learn that White wrote the film specifically for Black, everything fits perfectly his cocky loudmouth persona and it often feels like he’s making up all the great dialogue on the spot. What does come as a bit of a surprise is to find Richard Linklater in the director’s chair. Best known for edgy independent films, it’s unusual to find him helming a studio comedy that could be described as “Kindergarten Cop” meets “Sister Act”.
Yet while “The School of Rock” does offer entertainment suitable for the whole family, with no profanity, sex, drugs or violence and a positive message, it’s also full with the spirit of ROCK! It never talks down to kids, and it’s not afraid to rough them up a little. I also love how the kids aren’t cutesy or annoyingly precocious, they’re funny, cool even, and they sure can play! This is still a conventional movie that’s not particularly deep or daring, with some underwritten supporting characters like Joan Cusack’s strict principal who “used to be funny” (just like Cusack’s character in “Say Anything”) or Sarah Silverman’s nagging girlfriend-from-hell, but these are nitpicks for what is by far the funniest film I’ve seen all year.
“The School of Rock” got heart and wit, it’s got a simple but effective script and direction that doesn’t call attention to itself but that gets the most out of all the laughs, and it’s got a dynamo of a lead performance that will bust guts and melt faces! It’s a JackBlacksterpiece.
“I serve society by ROCKING! I’m out there on the front lines, liberating people.”