School of Rock

Reviewed By MP Bartley
Posted 11/03/04 04:30:09

"It's a one-joke movie. But that joke is funny."
3 stars (Average)

Jack Black is one of the most naturally gifted comic actors we've got today. Any film he's been in with a small role, he's generally stole and ran away with. You give him a punch-line, no matter how old or cliched it is, he'll take it, twist it into something new and just bat it out as a zinger. But that's the problem - he's yet to get a really great script, deserving of his talents. 'School of Rock' is more geared towards Black's style of comedy - but it's still not that script he needs.

Black is Dewey Finn, a failed rock musician, and now a jobless, poor slob who has invaded his best friends couch without paying rent. His friend Ned (Mike White) is a supply teacher, and in a fit of desperation, Dewey pretends to be him over the phone to snare a job teaching at an exclusive school under the leadership of uptight Principal Mullins (Joan Cuscak).

Instead of teaching them the curriculum however, Dewey is much more interested in what they can do musically and forming them into a band, to participate in the upcoming 'Battle of the Bands' contest.

So what you have then is quite a cliched tale of a loser taking a job and responsibility he's not qualified for, being found out, yet having won everyone over in his own, maverick manner so he gets one last chance at glory. Because in 'School of Rock' nothing happens like you wouldn't predict it to. A lesson is learned, Dewey grows up, and the kids all learn something about acceptance and have a lot of fun along the way.

But what 'School of Rock' does show, is what happens if you give cliches to talented, and left-field, people. The combination of indie-writer White and indie director Richard Linklater ensures that 'School of Rock' is just a notch above formula and has a classy feel to it. It certainly looks better than your average comedy with some inventive touches like a clever title sequence and moves at a snappy pace too. The script is also good, if predictable (Dewey and the kids practice during lesson, nearly get caught, practice again, nearly get caught again and so on and so on), but gives the film a bit of dazzle to it (when asking for the kids musical influences, one boy pipes up camply "Liza Minelli?") and also freshens up the cliches. Joan Cusack for example, never feels too familiar in a stereotypical role. It also means that 'School of Rock' never falls into slush or obvious sentimentality. Instead, it's actually quite sweet the bond that forms between Dewey and the kids, and the kids never become grating or annoying.

But obviously, the reason that 'School of Rock' is frequently entertaining is Black himself, who is on fire in the role. A manic, bouncing ball of energy, he steams through the film like no-one's ever done this before, and the funniest moments are when his class descends into musical anarchy or when he improvises the next song that they should write. However, this is what I mean by a one-joke film. There's very little apart from Jack Black unleashing mayhem in a musical fashion, and while it's funny, it also suggest that the script could use some more meat on the bone.

'School of Rock' is far funnier than it has a right to be, and it'll be a constant re-watcher. But with a role tailor made for Jack Black, how could it fail to be? There's unfortunately little else around the performance of Black, which suggests that he's still waiting for that one, great script.

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