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Overall Rating
4

Awesome: 22.58%
Worth A Look64.52%
Average: 6.45%
Pretty Bad: 3.23%
Total Crap: 3.23%

3 reviews, 13 user ratings


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Rock School
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by Peter Sobczynski

"A joyful celebration of the power of teaching and rock."
4 stars

Paul Green will probably never win any official “Teacher of the Year” award. He will most likely never be the subject of one of those fluff pieces that pop up at the end of the news on especially slow days. His salty tongue, abrasive manner and over-the-top attitude no doubt repel as many people as they amuse. Nevertheless, there is a method to his seeming madness and for those who respond to his unusual methods, he is the kind of increasingly rare teacher who actually gets through to the students and makes a genuine difference in their lives and the highly entertaining new documentary “Rock School” shows him as he goes about what he sees as his mission in life–to take raw and unformed kids and turn them into genuine Gods of Rock.

That’s right, rock music–an art form that has always been fueled by the notion that it can be done by anyone who can put together three chords (two if you are the Ramones). Green is the owner and leader of the Paul Green School of Rock Music, a Philadelphia institution that takes kids ranging in ages from 9-17 and tries to teach them how to properly perform rock music with all the heart and soul that great music requires. His methods may come as a shock to outsiders–he deploys the “F”-word with enough frequency to earn the film an “R” rating (thereby keeping it away from the very audiences that would benefit most from it), he browbeats his students mercilessly when they muff a part and teases them for such crimes against rock as being a Sheryl Crow fan.

However, there is a method to his madness–by refusing to kowtow to them, he forces his charges to push themselves to higher levels than even many seasoned professionals could hope to accomplish. One of Green’s idols is the late Frank Zappa, who was infamous for his unfathomably complex musical compositions–instead of starting with basic tunes, Green throws them into the deep end by giving them Zappa songs like “Inca Roads” to work on Sure, they struggle at first but the kids respond to the pressure and get so good (not just kids-playing-rock good but good-good) that they get invited to a Zappa festival in Germany and blow away the audience–a group that includes such former Zappa sidemen as Napoleon Murphy Brock and Jimmy Carl Black.

Although the notion of a school dedicated to teaching rock music to kids is an appealing hook for a documentary, the sight of little kids wailing away on rock standards by itself is only good for a finite period of time. Luckily, filmmaker Don Argott got lucky by hitting upon a class full of kids that are just as intriguing in their own right. Mari, the aforementioned Sheryl Crow fan, is a talented singer/musician whose Quaker beliefs (especially the revelation that she has performed with a Quaker rap group) inspires much teasing from Paul. Will O’Connor is a less-talented musician than most of his classmates but can claim, as you will see, that Paul and rock music have literally saved his life. Then there are my favorites, Asa and Tucker Collins, a pair of adorable young twins who partially explain their seemingly astonishing musical prowess by deadpanning, “AC/DC is really simple.”

Of course, many will compare this film to Richard Linklater’s “School of Rock” and Green to that film’s star, the irrepressible Jack Black (though Green’s school existed before the film), especially since Green and Black have similarly astonishing energy as they bound around preaching the gospel of rock music. The films are essentially apples and oranges but they do have one key thing in common–both point out, in their own crackpot ways, just how important an inspired teacher–one who is driven more by a desire to reach their students instead of muddling through the day with a minimum of fuss and conflict. These are the teachers that wind up making a genuine difference in the lives of their students and they are the ones that the films celebrate. With “School of Rock,” such a creature could be dismissed as just another fictional creation. “Rock School,” on the other hand, proves that such people still exist and for those kids lucky enough to have someone like that in their lives, it is a celebration of those reckless individuals willing to make a difference to their charges by any means necessary.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=10171&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/03/05 13:49:37
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2005 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sydney Film Festival For more in the 2005 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/02/07 ubishii the kids had so much more power over green, and didn't even know it. wish they did! 4 stars
11/24/06 David Pollastrini great music 5 stars
12/26/05 Ben Knapton That CJ Tywoniak kid is absolutely amazing. 5 stars
10/01/05 Adriano Abatt Did you watch the movie? 1 stars
9/02/05 kaitlyn morris this movie is so cool,its the coolest movie ever 5 stars
6/06/05 Joann Creasy A must see 5 stars
5/31/05 Suz "barbizon school of rock" exploits kids for mommy&daddy's money,Green plays it up for same 2 stars
5/21/05 Drew Troubling, hopeful & incredible all at once. CJ is awesome! 5 stars
4/17/05 David Siegel A touching and funny version of the "only good teacher in town" genre. 4 stars
2/15/05 Dian fun 3 stars
2/09/05 Andrea It was very funny and sweet. And most of all it really did rock. 5 stars
2/05/05 Ron Best/Most fun movie I saw at Sundance. See this one. 5 stars
2/01/05 Kris As a documentary it works: it's hard to watch the children get screamed at 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  03-Jun-2005 (R)
  DVD: 13-Sep-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  07-Jul-2005


Directed by
  Don Argott

Written by
  (documentary)

Cast
  Paul Green
  CJ Tywoniak
  Madi Diaz
  Will O’Connor
  Napoleon Murphy Brock



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