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Jack Black Finds His True Calling

School of Rock

Movie review
4 stars
Reviewed: Oct. 17, 2003

Movie review by Brian Larsen

Jack Black ("Shallow Hal," "High Fidelity") stars in "School of Rock" as Dewey Finn, a rock guitarist/vocalist with severe delusions of grandeur. When Dewey's not tearing up (or jumping off) the stage at a local club, he's crashing at the apartment of his best bud Ned (Mike White, who also wrote the screenplay), an ex-bandmate who, unlike Dewey, has long since given up on dreams of rock and roll stardom and has moved on to become a substitute teacher.
When we first meet Dewey, he's about to have a very bad day. First, he gets kicked out of his band for his wild, attention-hogging antics on stage. Then Ned, by way of his overbearing fianc»e, gives Dewey an ultimatum & get a job and pay his share of the rent, or get out. In an act of desperation, Dewey decides to temporarily impersonate Ned by taking a job as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. It can't be that hard, he thinks. Besides, he'll just do it long enough to get this months rent, and then he can focus on the more important task of forming a new group so he can play in this year's Battle of the Bands. Arriving at the school on his first day, Dewey meets the school's uptight Principal, Rosalie (played by the always likable Joan Cusack) who introduces him to the precocious class of 5th graders that he has been assigned to teach. After the principal leaves, the students are shocked and confused to learn that their new teacher's lesson plan consists of nothing more than nonstop recess. Despite their insistence that he teach them something, Dewey makes it clear that he has absolutely no intention of doing anything of the sort. That is, until one day he overhears the kids in music class and inspiration strikes & his new band has actually been right in front of him all along. They just need to rev up their classical skills and learn to rock by studying the Masters (AC/DC, Ledd Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, to name just a few), and Dewey just so happens to be the perfect man for the job.
Before you know it, "School of Rock" begins to veer ever so slightly into the same territory of classic teacher/student films like "Dead Poets Society" and "Mr. Holland s Opus," but without any of their moderate pretentiousness. Dewey, to everyone's surprise (including his own), actually becomes quite the inspirational music teacher. Of course, it s all at the sacrifice of what the kids are actually there to learn, so his plot must remain a secret, something that doesn t prove to be quite as easy.
"School of Rock" is a fun and funny flick. Jack Black's enthusiasm and energy is nothing short of infectious. His performance had me grinning from ear to ear from beginning to end and had me cheering once, and I hope I'm not spoiling anything here, the kids and their faux-teacher turned band leader finally performed at the Battle of the Bands in the film's crowd-pleaser of a finale.
Yes, Jack Black rules this School he's completely in his element and the film is literally hinged on his performance. That said, if you find his particular act (which I can only describe as a manic mix of Jim Carrey and the late Chris Farley) annoying, you may not find all that much to like in "School of Rock."
But I don't and I did (that is, I don't find him annoying and I did find much to enjoy). Add to the mix a group of great kid actors who mostly come off as real and not annoyingly cute (which can happen all too easy) and a equally enjoyable performance by Joan Cusack and this School gets nothing but high marks. And with that, here ends the lesson & along with the cheesy school puns.

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