Black is Back to his Rocking Best
For many "School of Rock" is a sign that indie film director Richard Linklater sold out and went commercial with a movie which is an obvious crowd pleaser, so obvious that you get an emotion manipulating ending. But then in doing so he has turned a well worn formula into an enjoyable movie which highlights the comic talents of Jack Black and although is pretty predictable will have you laughing from start to finish whilst you tap your foot too the rocking soundtrack.
Having been kicked out of his band and with debts spiralling, wannabe rock god Dewey Finn (Jack Black - Ice Age) pretends to be his flat mate to get a temp job as a substitute teacher at a private school. But when he discovers that his class is full of talented young musicians and singers he decides to put a band together and without telling anyone enters them in the upcoming "Battle of the Bands" competition.
It's probably no surprise when I say actor/writer Mike White actually wrote "School of Rock" with Jack Black in mind as it fits his energetic persona down to a tee. But the underlying fact is that the storyline to the movie is nothing special. It pretty much follows the same formula as a variety of inspirational high school movies but in the case of "School of Rock" it teaches these young, uptight children that there is more to life than getting good grades and having self belief through the power of rock music.
In fact the emphasis is less on the message and more on fun which it provides in bucket loads from start to finish and on in to the credits. In doing so it never takes itself seriously, never proclaims that it will teach you something about life preferring to take those cliche scenes and making them as fun as possible. Which is very much the case of the feel good finale which you know is coming but it is such good fun and well crafted that it doesn't matter one iota that it is completely predictable.
What makes "School of Rock" work is very much the childlike enthusiasm of Jack Black as he preaches the virtues of rock music to his uptight class. A musician himself and on more than one occasion looking scarily like AC/DC's Angus Young, Black excels when he has a guitar in his hands and delivers outrageous lessons about being in a rock band and what it can do for your self esteem. But at the same time there is a tenderness about his performance so that unexplainably you actual feel for him and the rapport he has with the children is brilliant. In between all this rock exuberance and tenderness there is the fact that Black's comic timing through out is first rate and whether the movie is entirely scripted or allowed for Black to let rip with adlib I am not sure but it has a very natural flow about it and the performances.
As for the children well surprisingly the fact that those involved in the band were not actors but musicians did not spoil the movie at all. In fact the honest performances of the likes of Joey Gaydos Jr. as guitarist Zack and Kevin Alexander Clark as drummer Fred give the movie a more adult feel because they are not playing those stereotypical sickly cute children which usually fill these sorts of movies. Even those child stars who are actors such as Miranda Cosgrove as Summer and Angelo Massagli as Frankie put in performances that although are a little more refined than their class mates still do not feel stereotypical.
Then of course you have Mike White who does a good job of nerdy Ned Scheebly, who although is never really a strong character adds another adult element so that the movie does not always just focus on the children. Plus of course there is Joan Cusack who is marvellous as the uptight school principle Rosalie Mullins. The repartee between Dewey and Rosalie is brilliant and again adds that adult element to a movie which could have suffered from being purely focussed on the children's antics.
With a movie all about rock music it's impossible not to mention the "School of Rock" soundtrack. It is definitely a sound track which will appeal to those who like rock music with an endless list of tracks including "Substitute" - The Who, "Smoke On The Water" - Black Sabbath and "Back in Black" - AC/DC as well as a version of their "It's A Long Way To The Top" by School of Rock. It is certainly a soundtrack which will get your feet tapping.
What this all boils down to is that "School of Rock" although aimed at a younger audience will appeal to a much wider demographic. The comedy works both for children and adults a like plus with Jack Blacks enthusiastic performance there are numerous outrageous scenes to get you laughing. Even though the emphasis is not on the message it still delivers one about if you put your mind to it you can achieve anything and of course gives you the feel good ending a movie like this demands.