Thursday, December 23, 2010

Review: "The School of Rock" is Sweetness Playing Edgy

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 251 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

The School of Rock (2003)
Running time: 109 minutes (1 hour, 49 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some rude humor and drug
DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater
WRITER: Mike White
PRODUCER: Scott Rudin
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rogier Stoffers, N.S.C.
EDITOR: Sandra Adair
Golden Globe nominee


Starring: Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White, Sarah Silverman, Adam Pascal, Lucas Papaelias, Lucas Babin, Jordan-Claire Green, Veronica Afflerbach, Miranda Cosgrove, Joey Gaydos, Jr., Robert Tsai, Angelo Massagali, Kevin (Alexander) Clark, Maryam Hassan, Caitlan Hale, Cole Hawkins, Brian Falduto, James Hosey, Aleisha Allen, Zachary Infante, Rebecca Brown, and Jaclyn Neidenthal with Frank Whaley (no credit)

Dewey Finn (Jack Black) is a wannabe rock star kicked out of his own band. Dewey has also been mooching off his roommate, Ned Schneebly (Mike White), a substitute teacher, for years, but Mike’s girlfriend, Patty Di Marco (Sarah Silverman), wants Dewey out of the picture if he doesn’t pay his rent. In need of cash, fortune favors Dewey, when he answers a phone call meant for Ned. Dewey, pretending to be Ned, poses as a substitute teacher at an exclusive prep school. Upon discovering that the students in his particular classroom are quite musically gifted, Dewey tries to turn them into a rock band with himself as the leader. His goal is to enter the upcoming Battle of the Bands contest and win the $20,000 prize. Of course, there are complications.

The School of Rock certainly seems out of place in the filmography of director Richard Linklater, the fine director behind such fabulous films as Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Dazed and Confused. However, that this feel-good, warm-hearted, family-friendly comedy actually feels very good, is simply warm-hearted, is nicely family-friendly, and is funny is a testament to Linklater’s skill. This could have been yet another mediocre flick about a rebel who sneaks into the system and teaches the kids (the Socrates motif) to feel good about themselves, believe in themselves, and unleash their creative skills and talents. Yes, it is just another one of those films, but it works because it’s entertaining and ultimately doesn’t seem so contrived.

A lot of the credit goes to Jack Black. His performance is one of sustained madness that is a shaky house of lies built upon a flimsy foundation. Black isn’t just another funny fat guy; he’s also a movie star with an intriguing film personality. So far, he’s basically played the same person, but there is something about him that works on the big screen, even when you realize that the characters he plays are selfish and sneaky suckas. He has a look on his face and a mean glint in his eyes that suggest he deserves watching; for some reason it works.

The School of Rock is not without it’s problems. At times it seems too contrived and too long. The narrative seems bogged down in the classroom when the entire school begs to be examined, especially Joan Cusack’s uptight and anal school principal Rosalie Mullins. Ultimately, Dewey Finn is let off the hook too easily, but it leads to a sweet finale, so I can cut The School of Rock some slack.

7 of 10

2004 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Jack Black)


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