Movie Review
The School of Rock
The School of Rock poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published August 9, 2003
US Release: October 3, 2003

Directed by: Richard Linklater
Starring: Jack Black , Mike White , Joan Cusack , Sarah Silverman

PG-13
Running Time: 108 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $81,258,000
B
49 of 122
A funny and very enjoyable flick
Despite an iffy start, School of Rock proves to be a funny and very enjoyable flick that?ll please Jack Black fans and is prone to amuse anyone with a decent knowledge of rock itself; like any good comedy, it doesn?t have one specific audience demographic in mind to please.

The film is directed by Richard Linklater, who was behind Tape (B), Waking Life (B+), and Slacker (B-). Rock?s screenwriter, Mike White, is someone I?ve admired ever since he wrote Dead Man on Campus (B-) ? a comedy I find to be under-rated compared to the buzz it had received. Orange County (B) was also a solid achievement of his, serving up a genre not often fulfilling. He also wrote Chuck & Buck (B), which was his debut feature.
White?s screenplay here is a cross between Billy Madison (B-) and County, and though School of Rock is not as well polished as White?s Good Girl (B+), it serves up more than enough entertainment for a night and may even leave the theater with you (a quality not often achieved).

Together, the two talents have made a film that could?ve grown redundant and lame pretty rapidly; with the subject matter involving a rock band loser taking the false position of a substitute teacher (at an elementary school), you never know where this could lead in terms of quality. Luckily enough, School of Rock works, and honestly, it works really well; these children could?ve been annoying, but White has crafted a personality and a sympathy level out of every one, making our attachment to many of them solid.

Through the writing and Jack Black?s terrific charisma, the classroom sessions make the viewer wish they had teachers like the one front and center; though the premise is contrived, it regardless makes for one hell of a fun flick. It?s a movie that could?ve easily had the audience focused on the unrealistic story elements instead of the few things that worked, and rather, is a movie that serves up enough punch lines and bright dialogue to cancel out the artificial plot.

The movie is manipulative but in the right way; its pieces build on one another, and when they finally come together there?s literally a craving to clap at what has unfolded on screen. With the several rounds of (light) applause that broke out at the screening, this is definitely a comedy that?ll win over several demographics.

As noted already, School of Rock stars Jack Black (Dewey Finn) as a member of a rock band whose fellow buddies have just dismissed him from their group. Now, without a job and without a life but with rock his intense passion, Dewey must quickly find something to occupy time with. Finn shares an apartment with his best friend, Ned (Mike White), who happens to be a substitute teacher, and Ned?s girlfriend Patty (Sarah Silverman); one day when Dewey is sitting around the apartment, he answers the phone to a substitute request from a local private school. Faking Ned?s identity, Dewey takes the call and heads on over.

In the means of logical reasoning, this is pretty bottom of the barrel, but the material that develops makes up for that defect. With his first day on the job sharing a tone from Adam Sandler?s classroom scenes in Billy Madison (but Jack Black style), Dewey soon realizes that these students are musicians (they have band class they devote part of their school day to). Taking his knowledge of music, Dewey attempts to take these young talents and convert them into a strong rock band (with actual educational knowledge mixed in here and there).

Judging from the trailer for School of Rock, it would be easy to question whether this movie is amusing or just sort of a half-constructed idea getting made. The idea behind the film is certainly half-constructed, but it?s written with a classy and fashionable style. The movie?s not really about much, yet it moves along at a good pace with an irresistible and charming spark; Black is to thank for a good portion of this, but there are so many consistently good lines thrown in that make you just sit back, relax, and enjoy yourself.

Black throws himself into the role and utilizes his physical humor to his full potential ? often times it?s his delightful charisma that retrieves smiles, giggles, or even full-hearted laughs. The beginning of the film attempts to spark off his energy, but for me the impact didn?t get solid until school sessions began.

Conflicts arise, as the school head (Principal Mullins - Joan Cusack) is a strict and straight-laced woman who will not allow Dewey to go off topic for any of his lessons nor lead any field trips. This makes for easy opportunity to throw in a collection of clich? events (plot wise), and while I did fear the execution of some of it, School of Rock impressed me a little bit by not turning to the obvious all the time. The story does drive on a run of the mill path, but enough smarts are thrown in to even keep the stricter filmgoers pleased to some extent.

School of Rock wouldn?t gel as a successful comedy if it weren?t for the classmates; from the first day of class, we get to know many of these young students and can immediately tell who has what type of personality and lifestyle. The chemistry between the kids and Jack Black is rolling, and his efforts to toss in music issues into lessons brings out nice laughs. I, for one, am probably one of the least informed music-people on the face of the planet, and I took amusement with many of the pokes in the film.

Though School of Rock is very entertaining and is a nice crowd pleaser, it doesn?t reach any terrific heights; the writing, while witty and rather intelligent, does lack when it comes to the one-dimensional story. If White had worked on the vague outline even more (even Orange County had a better-built premise), he could?ve achieved more of an original or at least pretty decent storyline to walk on. The film rings a bit like a skit-turned-movie, but thankfully its screws and bolts have been tightened well enough to dismiss that factor for the most part.

So far the comedy is scheduled to debut alongside Scary Movie 3 on October 3, and I do hope either Dimension Films or Paramount make a release date change with either titles. School of Rock is a movie that deserves to find an audience (even if it?s not a big one), and with SM3 looking a whole lot better than part two, Dimension could find a hit with a few demographics. Jack Black in a Tenacious D-like role should no doubt boost the flick?s chances, but whether or not he can battle with the ensemble cast with Scary Movie 3 is an unknown.

Black?s role in Rock is more or less the equivalent as in Orange County if he had been the main star there. I?m not a huge fan of his, but his presence is usually welcoming to me; here, the comedian carries the movie with his physical humor and singing talent. By the time School of Rock is over, we know the flick won?t win any awards, but in terms of solid Friday or Saturday night comedies, it certainly does the job well.
Lee's Grade: B
Ranked #49 of 122 between Anchorman (#48) and Coming to America (#50) for 2003 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 2956 graded movies
A0.4%
B29.7%
C61.8%
D8.1%
F0.0%
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'The School of Rock' Articles
  • Craig's review B
    October 4, 2003    Director Richard Linklater does a nice job of putting it all together, giving the film the underlying sweetness that will make the audience leave with a smile on their face. -- Craig Younkin
  • Greg's review A-
    October 1, 2003    One of the funniest films I have ever seen. -- Greg Ward