School of Rock

| October 12, 2003

It is safe to say that Jack Black has finally arrived. With other not-so-noteworthy films as Shallow Hal and Orange County cluttering up his career, School of Rock will finally put Black on the map with an accomplishment other than his extremely funny rock band Tenacious D, and his few appearances on the HBO’s hilarious but short lived Mr. Show. In this latest endeavor, Black manages to stick to his rock n’ roll roots and surprise the audience with a perfect performance.
Black plays Dewy Finn, the self proclaimed next big thing in rock n’ roll, who through a barrage of horrendously long guitar solos, ill-timed stage dives and over the top performance antics, finds himself fired from the band he helped to create. In a self pity induced hangover, Finn also finds himself about to lose his home as his roommate Ned Schneebly, played by the film’s screenwriter, Mike White, decides to listen to the overbearing girlfriend (Sarah Silverman) who now dominates his life. Finn must produce the rent money fast, or move out.
Without his band and otherwise without any trade skill, Finn fields a telephone call intended for his roommate Ned from a prestigious elementary school in need of a substitute teacher. Allowing an fantastic Schneebly impersonation to commandeer himself the position, an impatient and uncaring Finn begins his career in education. After laying down some new ground rules, the class understands that not only will Finn be presiding without anything that comes close to resembling a lesson plan, but that he is not to be bothered in any way. It isn’t until he finds the children’s hidden musical talent as he unwittingly eavesdrops on a music class that he decides to use them as he creates his new rock band. In what he describes as a “class project,” the children are formed into band members, groupies, a manager, technicians and security, and their soul purpose is to win the Battle of the Bands, winning Finn back his respect along with 20 grand.
Somewhere in the process, however, Finn learns from his newfound responsibility, and begins to act like an adult as his attachment toward the children grows, and through his carefree attitude, the stifled children learn to act like kids, forming a lasting relationship. When uptight principle Mullins, wonderfully portrayed by Joan Cusack (Arlington Road), learns Finn is not Ned Schneebly, the project falls apart, taking away the only thing Finn has found he loves more than his music – teaching the children in his class.
Driven by their fondness for their teacher, whether he be Schneebly or not, the children hijack a school bus, pick Finn up and manage to make it to the concert, delivering a truly impressive performance and earning an encore.
The casting of this film is incredible as a group of virtual unknowns manage to realistically portray believable children as Finn struggles to deal with their adolescent insecurities, and thereby thwarting some of his own demons. Joan Cusack has managed to embody every detail of every kid’s hated principle, while still creating a feeling of empathy as she is ostracized by her co-workers. And as if penning this witty script wasn’t enough, Mike White has captured the perfect meek roommate driven into a claustrophobic normality by his controlling girlfriend. The only real disappointment in this film is that the incredibly talented Sarah Silverman isn’t allowed to shine as her dialogue lacks any semblance of humor, stifling this comedian’s creativity. While she plays her role to perfection, it seems like a joke will emerge at any moment only to leave the audience disappointed.
While the premise of this film is seemingly very trite and, well, just plain stupid, screenwriter Mike White (The Good Girl) and lead actor Jack Black seem to come together creating a perfect comedic duo fusing their styles to make this film work. Its surprising wit and timing is refreshing as it is sure to become a major hit.

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