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Overall Rating

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 brianorndorf

"Guitar Hero for real"
4 stars

If “School of Rock” was the fictionalized version of the new documentary “Rock School,” I’d rather take the Jack Black road. While funny, breezy, and interesting, “Rock School” doesn’t dig in deep enough, leaving many questions and situations unanswered.

Richard Linklater’s 2003 neo-classic vehicle “School of Rock” appeared to be only a flickering figment of rock fantasy. What a surprise it is to find out the idea of a school for rock education truly exists. “Rock School” is the new documentary that ventures into the halls of the cramped school and meets the man behind the madness: Paul Green.

Green, a doughy, thunderous former professional musician with a vivid vision of himself, is the ringleader for this Philadelphia-based school and, heavens, the man loves his music. Lording over his small band of students with oily glee, Green is a slippery character, and documentarian Don Argott clearly enjoys just sitting back and letting the teacher take over each sequence with his natural hurricane-like personality. Green is a fascinating character to witness as he rants and raves around the building, swearing like a sailor (which is why this harmless film has an unexpected R-rating), alternately building up and tearing down his students’ self-esteem at a moment’s notice. “Rock” notes that Green’s temper is erratic and often mean-spirited, which is illustrated in many scenes featuring Green berating, insulting, and, in one small moment, hitting his students when their playing fails to please him. The mostly teenaged student body claim they love his methods, and that they’re learning from his aggressive leadership, but those sentiments are delivered in a slightly bewildered, abused housewife tone that suggests there’s more to the story than anyone is willing to say.

In Argott’s attempt to piece a story together, “Rock” liberally steps over some nagging subplots, including one whopper that finds Green the subject of an unflattering newspaper profile. The fall-out from this piece is never known, nor are Green’s reactions to the writing. Instead, Argott goes to suicidal (as he’ll remind you over and over), underachieving student Will for a reaction, who offers nothing but rambling teenage musings on realities he doesn’t clearly comprehend. Argott also attempts to find a dramatic arc for the film when the students are invited to a German Frank Zappa festival to play. The last third of the picture is devoted to this event, and while it provides some solid proof that these kids are incredibly talented and can swim with the sharks, it feels like a tacked on achievement, and it ends strangely (or characteristically) with Paul front and center on stage for no good reason.

“Rock School” is a great opportunity to watch some fiercely talented kids struggling to make themselves even better. A standout is CJ, a wannabe guitar god who possesses chops better than most working musicians today. A film highlight is watching this pre-teen take on Van Halen’s cover of “You Really Got Me” and run with it.

As entertainingly loopy as he is, Paul Green’s camera-aware personality just doesn’t capture the imagination the way raw talent can, and “Rock School,” for all its good intentions, can only manage an entertainingly superficial look at this institution and the man who keeps it going.

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originally posted: 05/21/09 05:12:56
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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
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  03-Jun-2005 (R)
  DVD: 13-Sep-2005



Directed by
  Don Argott

Written by

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

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