November 07, 2003

School of Rock

We watched this on a Sunday night in Hershey, Pennsylvania with a theatre full of teenagers. Jack Black plays an aspiring rock-and-roll guitar god. Now, you have to understand that this is a very specific flavor of rock-and-roll we're talking about in this movie. Think Cheap Trick and that kind of theatrical, epic guitar-heavy, make-your-ears-bleed power rock. Black's character is into this stuff, but the band he's in takes themselves seriously in a completely different way than Black does and find his antics embarassing at best, so they fire him. Naturally Black tries to form his own band, but gets no takers.

Meanwhile his roommate, a substitute teacher played by screenwriter Mike White, is trying to keep a relationship alive with his shrewish girlfriend, and delivers an ultimatum to Black: get a job and pay the rent, or get out.

This all sets the stage for Black to accept a substitute teaching job in White's name. And this is where you have to turn your suspension-of-disbelief knob up to eleven. Black manages to snow the extremely tightly-wound headmistress (played with wonderful depth and feeling by the inimitable Joan Cusack) and the rest of the teachers into thinking he knows what he's doing. And then when he turns his class of fourth-graders into a power rock band (and roadies and stage crew and costume designers and lighting designers and...), somehow no one in the school hears them or in any other way hears about the fact that the class isn't learning anything except rock history and practice.

The kids are adorable. Black takes a role that could easily be either brashly repulsive or sickeningly sweet and somehow manages to be neither. His character's love of the music is pure and complete and his dealings with the kids are always respectful and encouraging.

The movie has a slightly schmaltzy vibe to it, but somehow director Richard Linklater never lets it descend into formula. It's no masterpiece of the cinema, but it's a perfectly watchable feel-good movie.

Posted by jeffy at November 7, 2003 07:38 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?