SCHOOL OF ROCK
Review by Michael Jacobson
Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White, Sarah Silverman
Director: Richard Linklater
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 109 Minutes
Release Date: February 24, 2003
here's the deal...I have a hangover. Does
anybody know what that means?"
that mean you're drunk?"
means I was drunk YESTERDAY."
I was a kid, I discovered the guitar, and it's been a part of my life ever
since. I remember in high school,
those of us who played music were kind of a crowd unto ourselves.
It shaped our attitudes and outlooks, it helped us form a bond, and it
even gave us a common language. We
understood that music isn't something you do, it's something you are.
of Rock understands
that, too. Here's a movie that
knows rock and roll isn't really about sex and drugs but about passion and
expression. It asks why some of us
continue to rock out when we're well past the days of our reckless youth, and
it knows the answer at the same time...because for those short minutes you're
on the stage and all eyes are on you, you're a star, no matter what you came
from or what you're going back to afterwards.
film is largely a vehicle for Jack Black, but rarely has a picture and a star
been so perfectly married. He plays
Dewey Finn, a man still living the rock and roll dream that most of his high
school band buddies have long since given up on. It doesn't matter if other look at him like some kind of
oddball because he has no real job or worldly ambitions. The music in his blood.
after being kicked out of his band for showboating, and in danger of losing the
roof over his head, he takes a call for his substitute teacher roommate Ned
Schneebly (White, who also wrote the script) and finds himself posing as Ned as
a teacher in a private elementary school in order to earn a few quick dollars!
is hardly teacher material at first. He
doesn't respond well to the kids, nor they to him. But one morning, at a particularly low point, he overhears
the students in band practice. They
can actually play! And this gives
him the ultimate idea...turn the class into a rock band so they can compete in
an upcoming battle of the bands for a $20,000 purse!
All they have to do is practice and pull together a dynamite rock show,
while making sure that none of the parents or the school's no-nonsense
principal Miss Mullins (Cusack) finds out what's going on!
Not for an instant. But
while some movies beg you to suspend your disbelief, this one kind of charms you
into it. In the first place, not only are the kids all great, but they
could actually play their instruments. That
adds a much needed layer of authenticity to the fantastic premise
And Jack Black is, of course, a living breathing testament to rock and
roll passion. His wicked grin and
terrific voice are the perfect counterpoint to the students' innocent charm.
what I really liked about the movie is simply that it took its musical passion
seriously. Writer and co/star Mike
White has admitted he's not the biggest rock fan in the world, but Jack Black
is, and the two were able to channel Black's energy and love for music into a
film that celebrates rock and roll rather than belittle it.
Of course, over the course of the story, there are the obligatory
transitions: while Black teaches
the kids the magic of music, the kids also help him to become something more
than an irresponsible slob. Isn't it great how they all become better people by the
humor and charm more than make up for an implausible situation.
And though I couldn't quite believe the movie, I could easily believe
IN it and what it had to say about the transforming power of music.
It can make the ordinary extraordinary, it can make the uncool cool, it
make the most quiet among us sing out with something to say.
Frankly, I think that's a perfectly good lesson, and one worth
is a solid anamorphic transfer from Paramount (a full screen version is also
available), with terrific coloring throughout.
A few dark images are a little fuzzy on the details, but nothing
distracting. The overall
presentation is quite good.
5.1 soundtrack is all about the music, of course, and the good news is that it
sounds great. While not the kind of
film that demands much from the rear stage, it opens up during some of the
concert footage, while the .1 channel keeps the bottom end rocking.
Dialogue is clean and clear throughout, and the dynamic range, thanks to
the songs, is fairly formidable.
was glad to see Paramount offer up a healthy extra helping of the kids in the
movie with their features package. They
get their own commentary track, which is a fun and enjoyable listen, plus you
can see the Toronto Film Festival through their eyes with their video diary.
They are also featured heavily in the "Lessons Learned" featurette,
which of course also showcases Black and the filmmakers as well as you see what
went into the making of the movie.
Black and director Richard Linklater share hosting duties on the second
commentary track, which is more informative but equally as fun.
There is also an MTV diary of Jack Black, the "Dewey Finn History of
Rock" interactive feature, a trailer, web site archive, a School of Rock music
video, and even Jack Black's on-camera pitch to Led Zeppelin to let them use "The Immigrant Song" in the movie (which obviously worked).