The School Of Rock

The School Of Rock

****

Reviewed by: Claire Sawers

Jack Black rocks. He may be fat, disagreeable, lazy and offensive in almost all he does, but there is no denying just how loveable that makes him.

In the slimline world of do-gooding, high-achieving, well-meaning male acting leads, he sticks out a mile, not just because of his belly, but because of the sheer chutzpah of the man, as he waves one finger at the world and cracks us up laughing.

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This latest outing for the sometime comic/actor/musician sees Jack/Tenacious D reviving his breakthrough role as Barry in High Fidelity. Then he was a surly, arrogant, outspoken slob who told people where they could file their ignorant opinions on music. Now he does mostly the same thing.

There couldn't be better casting for the part of Dewey Finn, a dropout rock fan, who lives for his next jam session. Dewey drinks hard, sleeps late, plays gigs in dingy clubs and, most importantly, loves to rock. When his band grows tired of his 20 minute concert solos and stage dives into non-existent audiences, he is fired. Ever the wise-guy, he holds up three fingers to the band and tells them to "read between the lines", before storming out.

Penniless and facing eviction from his flat, Dewey has the get-rich-quick idea of taking on friend Ned Schneebly's (Mike White, who wrote the script) identity and posing as a substitute schoolteacher. The job seems straightforward; he puts his feet up on the desk and sends the kids out to play. After a couple of days, he overhears a music lesson and realises these children have untapped talent. And so, they become his protégés.

He helps them set up a rock band, trying to instil in the 10-year-olds the values of live music and teaching them how to be cool. Nerdy bookworms are taught "the power stance," while the brainy science swots are told that a rock star lifestyle will help them score chicks.

Normally, comedies with children spell trouble. Brattish performances, or too much PC-ness, can rob a film of credibility and do serious damage to its entertainment value. This isn't the case here. Director Richard Linklater makes a conscious effort to underplay the junior parts. When the kids do appear, they are hilarious.

Fancy Pants, the class gay-guy-in-training and self-appointed band stylist, rushes about with material samples, while Summer is a prissy, grade-grubbing teacher's pet who loves rules and needs to know when the next class assessment will be.

Backed by inspired support from Joan Cusack, as an uptight schoolmistress who secretly likes glugging beer, and Sarah Silverman, as Ned's nightmare girlfriend, the stand-out star of this fresh and surprising comedy is, of course Jack. Although the plot becomes a tad ridiculous at times and there is the occcasional un-rock 'n' roll moment, when things become too serious and moral, he is non-stop brilliant.

Taking Dewey's compulsive lying and general who-gives-a-funk attitude, he contributes shorts blasts of air-guitar and the odd soprano solo interlude, giving a gut-busting belly laugh of a performance.

The embarassment of Shallow Hal is a distant memory. This is career-breaking stuff for Black.

Reviewed on: 30 Jan 2004
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The School Of Rock packshot
A drop-out muso poses as a schoolteacher and finds himself setting up a rock band with a group of schoolkids.
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Director: Richard Linklater

Writer: Mike White

Starring: Jack Black, Mike White, Joan Cusack, Sarah Silverman, Miranda Cosgrove, Joey Gaydos Jnr, Kevin Alexander Clark, Robert Tsai, Maryam Hassan

Year: 2003

Runtime: 108 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

Festivals:

EIFF 2011

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