Are you ready to rawk? Are you prepared to eat the beat? Are you ready to laugh so hard that your face feels like it might fall off? If you answered these questions with a resounding “Hell yeah!” then you are in luck, because there is no better way to usher in the month of Rocktober than by going to see “School of Rock.”
Don’t be fooled by the fact “School of Rock” is a family-oriented comedy that borrows its plot from the kiddie classic “Bad News Bears.” Despite its formulaic plot, “School of Rock” is a creative and audience-pleasing film crafted by indie darlings Richard Linklater (director, “Dazed & Confused,” “Waking Life”) and Mike White (screenwriter, “Chuck and Buck”). But what truly cranks “School of Rock” up to 11 is a tour de force comedic performance delivered by Jack “Tenacious D” Black.
In “School of Rock,” Jack Black landed a role that he was born to play. Black plays Dewey Finn, an over the top, washed up butt rocker who gets booted from his metal band because of his hammy onstage antics. Dewey proudly defends his purpose in life by declaring, “I serve society by rocking!” But when Dewey needs to quickly come up with cash for his rent check, he starts posing as his roommate Ned Schneebly (played dorkily by screenwriter Mike White) and goes to work as a substitute teacher.
With the exposition out of the way, “School of Rock” really starts rolling. The film’s funniest moments come when Dewey encounters the classroom full of precocious students at Horace Green Preparatory (think Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore,” but in the fifth grade). He gives them “permanent recess” and informs them that he has “a hangover and the runs.” He is clearly not cut out for the scholastic life. But when Dewey discovers that his class is stocked with musical prodigies, he tricks them into forming a band that will eventually compete against his former group in a $20,000 Battle of the Bands contest.
As soon as Dewey begins educating his pupils in the heavy rock riffage of Led Zeppelin and AC/DC, he learns that he has a knack for bringing the inner rock star out of his group of insecure grade-schoolers. Surprisingly, the film’s obligatory sentimental moments are not sappy, but heartfelt. In one such moment, an overweight girl in the band, who Dewey affectionately calls “Turkey Sub,” refuses to go onstage because she is embarrassed by her weight problem. Dewey then delivers a humorous and touching monologue that boosts the girl’s confidence. “You know who else has a weight problem?” Dewey asks Turkey Sub. “ME!” When Turkey Sub asks Dewey why he doesn’t go on a diet, he responds, “Um… because I like to eat.” Linklater, White and Black don’t shy away from kid flick cliches in “School of Rock;” they revel in them.
For the rest of his acting career, Jack Black may never find another role that is as perfectly tailored to his comedic strengths as Dewey Finn is. Throughout the movie, Dewey is a whirlwind of funny facial expressions, physical comedy, ripping rock ‘n’ roll and trademark, improvised Black-isms (for example, Dewey orders the 10-year old guitarist in his band to “play a solo that will melt my face!”).
In the film’s climatic Battle of the Bands scene, Dewey sings with his band of students, “Today’s assignment: kick some ass!” In “School of Rock,” Jack Black earns an A+ in ass-kicking.