Screen Reviews

School of Rock

directed by Richard Linklater

starring Jack Black, Mike White, Joan Cusack


If you’re a fan of Jack Black, writer/actor Mike White (Orange County) and/or director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused), you simply have to see School of Rock. If you’re a rock musician, ever dreamed of being one, or just a lover of rock music, this film is a “must-see.” Why, you might ask? It’s about the funniest movie you’ll see this year, that’s why; additionally, it’s such a “feel-good” flick that you won’t need ether or your personal drug of choice to be flying high as a kite. School of Rock combines a great, hilarious Mike White script with Mr. Black (whose revved-up John Belushi persona enjoys the juiciest role he’ll ever have) and a fantastically tasty soundtrack (when was the last time you heard the Ramones’ “Bonzo Goes To Bitburg” outside of your own house?).


Black stars as Dewey Finn, a moderately talented lead guitarist whose penchant for three-minute solos and face-planting stage dives gets him kicked out of his own band mere weeks away from the local “Battle of the Bands” contest. What’s more, his sell-out/substitute teacher roommate Ned Schneebly (White), with a big nudge from overbearing girlfriend Patty (Sarah Silverman) is finally insisting that Finn come up with his half of the rent.

Desperate, the guitarist (who might have graduated from high school) stumbles into a substitute teaching job; after stealing Schneebly’s identity, he goes to work at a prestigious private school run by ramrod-straight Principal Mullins (Joan Cusack).


After a few days of “recess” – as Finn sleeps off hangovers behind the desk – he accidentally catches his fifth grade class at band rehearsal – and finds that several of the little darlings are quite talented. A lightbulb appears above Finn’s head; he dashes out to his “band van,” trucks in his gear, and begins introducing his classically-trained pupils to the wonders of Deep Purple and the Doors. What begins as a basic lesson in rock ‘n’ roll develops into a crazed plan to form a backing band for Finn’s entry in the Battle of the Bands.

Finn and the kids have a lot of work ahead of them. The faux teacher not only organizes a band with a trio of backing vocalists, but a crew of technically-savvy roadies, a manager, a clothing designer, even groupies that immerse themselves into making t-shirts. The classroom is soundproofed, and a security detail sets up cameras to tip them off to Principal Mullins’ infrequent visits.

Black is completely at home in this suspension-of-disbelief-requiring scenario. Under Finn’s manic and maniacal tutelage, the kids undergo a crash course in the mechanics of rock. The drummer watches Buddy Rich and Keith Moon videos; a classical guitar wiz is taught Townshend’s power stance, a painfully shy keyboardist is given Yes’ Fragile album , with instructions to listen to Rick Wakeman’s solo on “Roundabout.” Whirling about the classroom with slung guitar, Finn also gives lessons in rock attitude, explaining to these young brainiacs – who you just know are micro-managed to death at home – that rock “is about passion… it’s about sticking it to The Man.” Finn begins to discover that his idea of education – 10-year-olds learning AC/DC staples – is actually doing his class some good; in one tender scene, he counsels a young Aretha Franklin clone (with a young Aretha figure) about overcoming her poor self-image.

This class of prodigies are hoodwinked into believing that they’re temporarily abandoning the three R’s to covertly prepare for a state-wide school competition. Meanwhile, Finn is also snowing Principal Mullins, who he plies with beer and Fleetwood Mac in a seedy bar in order to get permission for a “field trip” to the local concert hall.


Of course, this is a disaster in the making. Principal Mullins, the real Schneebly, or the terribly overbearing parents are bound to discover Finn’s shenanigans. But as we watch the debacle unfold, Jack Black – and a group of gifted, precocious kids – bring out the rocker in (nearly) all of us. School of Rock is the kind of film that induces hysterical laughter and spontaneous applause from beginning to satisfying end.

School Of Rock Movie:

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