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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 34.76%
Average: 10.16%
Pretty Bad: 1.07%
Total Crap: 2.14%

10 reviews, 127 user ratings

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School of Rock
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by Erik Childress

"Great Jack Black. Dumb Richard Linklater."
4 stars

There are two schools of thought in comedic filmmaking. One is crediting the writer and the director for a witty script or well-timed plotting. Sometimes a star like a Jim Carrey or a Robin Williams is such a force of nature though that a director almost becomes meaningless; like a propmaster assigned to just move things along to the next moment of inspired lunacy. Renowned indie filmmaker (not by me) Richard Linklater would normally be the last person to tackle such a dumb, studio-sponsored project. Throw in a screenplay by Mike White (Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl) and the ingredients start to look pretty interesting. By the time its all over, if you’ve gone along for the ride, all you’ll likely to remember is that this is a Jack Black movie and how expendable White and Linklater could have been.

Cross Black’s Barry from High Fidelity with his persona from the self-proclaimed “greatest band in the world”, Tenacious D, and you get Dewey Finn. Thrown out of his rock band and getting pressure from his roommate Ned (Mike White), care of his nagging girlfriend (Sarah Silverman) to pay the rent, what’s a struggling rocker to do but…gulp…get a job. When an elite prep school calls looking for Ned, a substitute teacher, Dewey takes the call and also Ned’s name to secure the gig. In his broke world, even a teacher’s salary is a vast improvement.

Dewey doesn’t have much intention on doing anything but invoking the ancient childhood art of clockwatching, but when he hears some of those kids carrying a tune in music class, that $20,000 Battle of the Bands looks quite promising. Basics be damned, thinks Dewey, and soon he’s got the class filled with instruments and concentrates on molding the kids into the band of his dreams. After all, he “serves society by rocking”, so you might as well teach what you know.

This is as old school a plot as you can get with recent examples like the Sister Act films and even Paramount’s recent The Fighting Temptations (which is part of a staggering streak of repetition that also includes Marci X.) There’s something fundamentally dumb about the storyline and even quite disturbing if you’re not aboard. Here’s an irresponsible loser who admits to having a hangover to a group of 10-year olds before blowing off their education completely to meet his own selfish needs. So how could the film work at all? Attribute it to something Alfred Hitchcock once said that no matter how evil a character may be perceived, if he’s good at his job the audience will be with him.

I could never be a music critic. Other than general facts about music and artists, I know nothing about why songs work and why some are praised and others thrashed. When Dewey introduces the kids to his own version of compositions, a kind of transcendence takes place. One-by-one he chooses his bandmates and tests them out. We know he may not give two guitar picks about these kids at this point, but he cares about the music. Despite laughing at his ridiculous antics early on, its here where we begin to appreciate that Dewey isn’t both a loser AND a horrible musician. We all wish we could love our jobs the way Dewey does. Not since Marty McFly have we seen someone so in love with being a rocker.

It may not be the education we want for our kids, but they ARE learning and having fun while doing it. Working together to form a single unit is a lesson that is usually subsided in both movies and real life as self-reliance and individual goals outrank taking one for the team. (Dewey rips up a chart using stars and black dots for rewards and demerits.) Those who aren’t in the band run security and the class brain becomes band manager (when rejecting the labeling of “groupie” after looking it up on the internet.)

Teaching them deception and rebellion are cringe-inducing thoughts especially when puberty naturally serves that function later on. I cringed a lot during The School of Rock and I suspect I won’t be the only one. Why is it necessary to saddle one child with the youngest implied homosexual role ever committed to film? Unauthorized field trips, which can easily be construed as kidnapping, to criminal(?) impersonation (the cops show up at one point and seem to magically disappear) can’t sit well with the parents shelling out thirty grand a year for their privileged children to learn the three R’s in a G-rated environment. Can you imagine walking into your kid’s classroom and seeing “Buzzcocks” written on the blackboard?

All this doesn’t even account for the film’s basic fundamental flaw that hovers over our minds and could have been changed to eliminate the cringe-inducing complications. Not wondering what kind of Battle of the Bands takes place on a weekday afternoon, but simply why not make the roommate a music teacher? He was once a Goth rocker alongside Dewey who has since been immasculated. Then the impersonation, while still wrong, at least makes sense. He can teach the kids rock ‘n’ roll instead of classical and the rebelliousness factor and concerned parents can stay intact. It’s still dumb, but it’s not creepy.

A number of audience members won’t be able to divide the two and even more will just forget about it entirely and revel in the performance of Jack Black and the catchy tunes he’s creating with the kids. If music is cathartic in any way, it’s proven by the rehearsals and eventual final performance of The School of Rock. One of my favorite moments in Tom HanksThat Thing You Do was the Wonders’ first live rendition of the title track where they slowly discovered the right rhythm on the spot until it became the hit that everyone would love. This film stretches that to feature length as every student finds their voice, a song is written and then, by the end, we’re wondering where we can buy the record. It’s great watching these kids play.

Black, on the other hand, can’t play this role forever and if his Shallow Hal performance was any tell, he’s got a range beyond the chubby, boisterous goofball. But it’s just what The School of Rock needs. When we’re afraid of the sap train at the next stop as he bonds with the kids and understands their problems, Black comes through with a ridiculous energy that makes us forget about all the inconsistencies and irresponsibilities of the script. It’s quite a multi-task on Black’s part since other than the children, no one in the film is given anything suited for their own comic talents. Joan Cusack (despite one funny late scene with a hopelessly dumb rocker) has to play prissy as the upstanding school principal who has also forgotten her wild days. We keep waiting for her to explode, but it never happens. Fellow comedienne Sarah Silverman is also reduced to playing another in a long line of bitchy shrews for her. Persona be damned, Silverman is funnier than most filmmakers seem to understand.

And a filmmaker Richard Linklater would be considered; not some studio hack assigned to shell out a quick product. Clearly attracted to the music aspect of the story, there’s something ironic about the screenplay’s references to “the man”. Since independent filmmaking can be akin to the revolution against the studio system (and Linklater has long been one of the champions of film geeks everywhere; again, not by me) what’s Linklater saying by taking on such a generic concoction that has the chance to become his biggest hit to date? (An $11 million opening weekend would take care of that.) Mike White, who also penned Paramount’s rather formulaic Orange County, has a script that misses so many opportunities to connect the already plotted-out dots about music and the emphasis on fun & fame over the importance of teachers , that it’s amazing how much I actually liked the film. It’s very funny, never OD’s in saccharine sweetness and does actually manage to rock at times. Then again, I’m not a music critic.

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originally posted: 10/03/03 15:24:49
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User Comments

8/09/18 Suzanne really talented kids 4 stars
11/20/14 Charles Tatum Lots of laugh, likable kids 4 stars
7/08/13 Monday Morning One of Jack's best - lots of fun. Just sit back and enjoy 4 stars
11/15/08 Annie G Fabulous acting from a group of young musicians. Just an overall good time! 4 stars
10/01/08 Shaun Wallner Funny Movie! 5 stars
9/21/08 Samantha Pruitt awesome family film, with really great music! 5 stars
9/07/08 Claire Sun Excellent movie, great for the whole family. 5 stars
7/17/07 Andrea D Freddy (kevin clark) is soooooo hot!! ( it is 5 stars because of him) 5 stars
6/27/07 Pokejedservo A genuinely appealing film, not a classic but its fairly close. 4 stars
6/06/07 ashley was frankie that fat kid? 5 stars
2/16/07 Vip Ebriega This school rules!!!! Fun-lovin' movie. 4 stars
12/24/06 11pop lame and predictable 1 stars
12/03/06 R.W.Welch Appeals mostly to Rock fans, but gonzo perf by J.B. C+ 3 stars
11/05/06 Samantha OMG I went to Montosery Preschool with Angelo Massagli! He promised to marry me! 5 stars
10/19/06 David Pollastrini very funny 5 stars
10/17/06 AJ Muller God of Rock, thank you for Jack Black, who has melted our faces with his high voltage rock 5 stars
10/05/06 Stanley Thai One of the best film's...and it stars Jack Black! 4 stars
6/26/06 ClaranceTheCobra See this Movie 5 stars
5/26/06 Ace ROCK ON JACK BLACK! WOO! WOO! OH yeah! 5 stars
3/16/06 Gribley HEHE - I know all the words! TEEHEE!! :D 5 stars
1/08/06 Quigley one of comedy's finest hours. Black steals the show. I was laughing every minute, no joke! 5 stars
12/29/05 Steve Newman Excellent excellent excellent (dec 05) 5 stars
8/18/05 John Aster Habig incredible gifted kids, a hilarious script and Black's comic genius=sweet 5 stars
7/24/05 Lisa Sammi A very inspirational movie-I wet my pants laughing! 5 stars
7/23/05 Dan !!! :D !!! 5 stars
3/17/05 Mask critic its ok but Jack Black is fucken insane 3 stars
2/14/05 Angela Saunders Very entertaining, feel good movie! 4 stars
12/12/04 Kristina Williams hilarious and the kids were awesome 5 stars
11/15/04 random* warning: may cause uncontrollable grinning 5 stars
11/14/04 willie vergara excellent and entertaining 5 stars
11/12/04 Andrea I actually surprised myself by truely enjoying this one. Jack Black is a delight! 4 stars
11/10/04 Misti Jack Black is brillant. The music in this movie is pretty good. 4 stars
11/08/04 kpxpaintballer it rocked the guitar and drum solos and all 5 stars
10/25/04 DM Very funny and surprisingly sweet 5 stars
10/20/04 ralph by far best comedy of 2003.arguebly best of movie of the year 5 stars
9/16/04 joyce its really a graet movie... 5 stars
9/14/04 Marionne Rivero Kevin Clark is soooooo cute!!!! 5 stars
8/26/04 jmsynth Better then most "family" films, but overated and rarely funny 3 stars
8/21/04 ME Kevin Clark is F2F, he is sOoOoOoOoO LUSH, seen film 341 times in counting, it's gr8!!!!!! 5 stars
8/13/04 *Riaan* Kevin Clark is so cute and the movie was great!!! 5 stars
8/08/04 maryann paul dsouza awesome 5 stars
8/02/04 ian it was the best movie I SAW ALL YEAR 5 stars
7/25/04 Katie This i smy favorite movie! Kevin Clark is SO HOT!!!!!!!! : ) 5 stars
7/25/04 heather kevin clark is so hott 5 stars
7/16/04 monica hedway it's a brill film and ive seen it 24 times 5 stars
7/13/04 Mia I THINK IT ROCKED TOTALLY!!!! 5 stars
7/12/04 Monster W. Kung Hardly a masterpiece, but still a funny and entertaining light-hearted flick. 4 stars
7/11/04 rachel kevin clark is lush hes my husband (i wish) the film was brilliant 5 stars
7/09/04 christina vitello It was awsome move, 5 stars
7/08/04 Chelsey This is my favorite movie 5 stars
7/08/04 Summer the movie was rocken + Kevin Clark was hoooott!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
7/01/04 Lisa johnson i think it was and AWSOME move 5 stars
6/30/04 Jim Wasn't bad, but didn't hold my interest. He woulda been busted the first day. 3 stars
6/29/04 Amy i loved the movie it was the best Kevin Clark is hott 5 stars
6/28/04 Marissa Wolff Cool movie 5 stars
6/26/04 Paige This movie was a riot! It was so hardcore and awesome. Plus, Kevin Clark was in it so how c 5 stars
6/25/04 Kelsey this movie is awsome! kecin is so hot! 5 stars
6/25/04 Renee The movie rocked out loud! plus Kevin Clark is ab hottie. Luv u kevin! 5 stars
6/19/04 Denise Duspiva very funny 5 stars
6/15/04 Shelby I loved the movie! what made it better was Kevin hes so HOTT!! 5 stars
6/11/04 Alexia I love Kevin annd the Movie! HE is HOT!!!!! 5 stars
6/08/04 Ron Miller Not for the older crowd, I'd have to agree, Black is a future huge star and will regretthis 3 stars
6/08/04 James Kustes Richard Linklater, Jack Black, Sarah Silverman, and Mike White. How could it not be good? 5 stars
6/07/04 Amanda This is the best movie ever and i know angelo massagli (frankie) hes soo cool 5 stars
6/06/04 Tessa I think it's a kick butt movie!!!! 5 stars
5/27/04 Courtney I love Kevin Clark he is so HOT!!! 5 stars
5/22/04 matt Kevin Alexander is sooooooooooo hot 5 stars
5/19/04 Diane Kevin Clark is hot! And the movie rocks! and he's mine! 5 stars
5/16/04 Katie This is the best movie ever! I LOVE KEVIN CLARK! 5 stars
4/29/04 jessica kevin clark you are so HOT 5 stars
4/16/04 John I love this movie the best move I've seen all year 5 stars
4/16/04 Soulis Sorry Jack, I admire your abilities but this movie is for grade school kids 2 stars
4/15/04 sera .c Kevin Clark is soooooo H.O.T. 5 stars
4/07/04 April Marie One of the most fun movies in a long time. Jack Black is the cat's pajamas for sure. 5 stars
3/31/04 Jess I wanna bone Jack Black, he's so fine! 5 stars
3/29/04 Amelia awesome!! i loved it Kevin Clark is so hott!!!! 5 stars
3/26/04 Kevin Radchenko This movie rocks! I love to watch this movie. 5 stars
3/18/04 Toothdoc Awesome kids air-guitared for the whole movie 5 stars
3/17/04 The Dude Jack Black is a fucking funny bastard. 5 stars
3/15/04 elaina hennig loved it great movie! 5 stars
3/08/04 Lindsay Kevin lives near me and I saw him at the mall! 5 stars
3/05/04 Ingo Nice and dull. 3 stars
2/18/04 The Big See Forced to watch this on a flight -- laughed my ass off! Great stuff. 5 stars
2/18/04 alisha jenkins it's mence 5 stars
2/17/04 Thomas Woolsgrove All the rock you know and some you don't, couppled with a classic Hollywood teatchers plot 4 stars
2/13/04 Littlepurch Blimey it went on FOREVER!!! Fantastic music and some funny moments but not great. 3 stars
2/11/04 garyrjb great film entertainment didnt need sfx or huge budget. just great fun 4 stars
2/05/04 Wendy Carpenter Almost as fun as it is preposterous. 4 stars
12/30/03 amanda it is the best movie ever 5 stars
12/27/03 Alien assasin Offers plenty of laughs. 4 stars
12/13/03 freddy lover HE WAS SO HOT IN THE MOVIE (we mean the drum player,freddy) 5 stars
12/03/03 Agent Sands Great soundtrack, Black's the new Carrey, & the script is AWESOME. 5 stars
11/22/03 lucille roberts Terrific, entertaining and funny! Loved it!! 5 stars
11/15/03 School of Rock Fan One of my all time favorites 5 stars
11/12/03 Mike i tire of jack black 1 stars
11/07/03 Cameron Slick Like Dead Poets Society, except good. 4 stars
11/06/03 Dombomb27 It was a movie aimed at teenagers 5 stars
10/24/03 Mike H Great 5 stars
10/20/03 Stephanie Hardest I've laughed in a long time!! 5 stars
10/20/03 Elizaveta super cute - jack black acts with 200% energy! 4 stars
10/18/03 yahoo reel fun 4 stars
10/15/03 Meegz I think I laughed twice.. 2 stars
10/14/03 charmaine: it was awsome i am speechless! 5 stars
10/14/03 Colleen I saw it twice..first with a friend, then with my family! Everyone loved it! 5 stars
10/13/03 Bailey wicked awesome, as Jack Black always is and uh...Jack Black rocks my world. 5 stars
10/13/03 Justin Weiler Worst movie EVER... The hype is a complete mystery 1 stars
10/11/03 Mezz The kids are fuckin' geniuses, little bastards, and that Jack Black, fuckin' crack-up! 5 stars
10/10/03 Valerie I Love this movie!!! 5 stars
10/10/03 Michael OConor The first laugh-out-loud comedy in a long time that doesn't bombard you with grossout humor 5 stars
10/09/03 Lewis A highly enjoyable, fun movie!!!! 5 stars
10/09/03 srburns Suprisingly funny 4 stars
10/09/03 Josh Groth Jack Black is hilarious!! The music is incredible, and it is all put together very well. 5 stars
10/09/03 nick2k there was some cheese-factor....but it all came together in the end...even without katie. 4 stars
10/08/03 Greyjack If you liked JackBlack in "High Fidelity", you'll like this. If you didn't, you won't. 4 stars
10/07/03 Erik Van Sant A comedy that consistently reminds you of why Jack Black is a God. This movie is awesome. 5 stars
10/07/03 your worst goddamn nightmare this was such a funny flick... Tenacious D kicks soooo much ass!! 5 stars
10/06/03 alexandra this movie was the bees knees! hmmm...i wonder how old that one kid was, he was hot!. 5 stars
10/06/03 J.P. Acco I loved this movie, But no solo for Katie made me sad 5 stars
10/05/03 Kaitlin This movie rocks and kicks ass at the same time 5 stars
10/05/03 Elizaveta simply great fun 4 stars
10/05/03 TheRealNapster This movie was awesome! I laughed for the beginning till after the credits were over! 5 stars
10/04/03 Kitty B. luv jack black 5 stars
10/04/03 Superdave very funny and entertaining 4 stars
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  03-Oct-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 02-Mar-2004



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