School of Rock

Review by Kristen Kersey

Directed by Richard Linklater
Screenplay by Mike White

Rated PG-13; 108 minutes

My uncle Adam asked me to do this review for School of Rock because he's (these are his words, not mine) "too old." But the whole movie is really celebrating the classic rock 'n roll from his generation. You know, the old one that nobody's supposed to like anymore.

Case in point: I walk into the theatre and my friend goes "Oh my God, there are old people in here!" (They were in their fifties. That's not really old, but it is when you're 15.) The first night showing had everyone from punk twelve-year-olds to nostalgic-for-real-punk forty-year-olds. And we all laughed together. It was bizarre.

Here's a quick recap: Dewey Finn (Jack Black) is a rock-and-roller with a fetish for 20-minute guitar solos and stage dives. He can't seem to let go of his dreams of being Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix. When he's kicked out of his band and his rent bills are mounting, he poses as his friend Ned Schneebly (Mike White, also the film's writer), and pretends to be a substitute teacher in a hoity-toity private school. Dewey discovers that his kids are like, awesome!!! musicians, and he grooms them to help him win a "Battle of the Bands" competition.

While it's not going to win any Originality or Sheer Brilliance Awards, this movie is among the funniest to come out this year. That's an amazing compliment because this movie could have been so bad. But it works for several reasons.

Jack Black, who has a brand of talent that some people would describe as "annoying," is given a script by Mike White (Chuck & Buck, Orange County) that is perfectly tailored to his talents; he completely fits the role of aging rock-&-roll god wannabe. Every raised eyebrow, screwed-up pout and manic attention-deficit guitar solo is exaggerated and shows the comparisons to the late John Belushi are not unwarranted.

He is given a strong supporting cast, like Joan Cusack as the uptight principal. She isn't given much to do, but it is amusing to watch her deal with uptight parents and sing along to Stevie Nicks. The kids in this movie are interesting, but don't upstage Black, and the fact that they play their own instruments gives the film some credibility. The standouts are Tomika (Maryam Hassan) who has the voice of a young Aretha Franklin; Zack (Joey Gaydos), the coolest ten-year-old guitar player ever; and Billy (Brian Falduto), the band's stylist who lists Liza Minnelli as one of his musical influences.

The music in this movie, obviously a huge factor, is perfect. The Doors "Touch Me," Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love," Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water"…every song fits the scene and makes you want to make a mix tape.

Jack Black teaches these kids to love rock, and actually gives the movie a (gulp) message. When Freddy (Kevin Clark) starts hanging out with some rock poseurs, Dewey grabs him and reminds him that rock isn't about "scoring chicks" or "getting wasted" - it's about "stickin' it to the man." Preach it, brother.

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