Neil Young’s Film Lounge – School of Rock

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

SCHOOL OF ROCK

7/10

USA 2003 : Richard LINKLATER : 95 mins

Way down deep, School of Rock isnt colossally different from, say, Mr Hollands Opus or Music of the Heart: great inspirational teacher introduces kids to the power of music, thus unlocking their potential, etc etc etc. Except now, instead of the halo-polishing, po-faced likes of Richard Dreyfuss and Meryl Streep, we have the farting, belching, sweaty Jack Black in inimitable full-tilt Tenacious D form: Mr Hollands Anus, perhaps or (for British audiences) Music of the Arse.

All bar-band guitarist Dewey Finn (Black) wants to do is rock. Or rather, raaawwwwwkkkkk!!! But as rawwking tends not to pay many bills, he opportunistically passes himself off as nerdy teacher-flatmate Ned (Mike White) to land a well-paid temp-job at a snooty private school. Before you can say Bachman Turner Overdrive (or, indeed, Kathleen Turner Overdrive) Dewey is introducing his class of posh ten-year-olds to the delights of Led Zep, Motorhead and Nirvana while prim-and-proper principal Rosalie Mullins (Joan Cusack) isn’t looking, of course. Deweys ulterior motive: a lucrative battle-of-the-bands contest, and musical revenge over the ex-bandmates who gave him the push after tiring of his endless solos

Some could argue with justification that School of Rock could itself do from a little of the Dewey Finn treatment. Linklater is certainly a long way from the avant-garde dabblings of his recent experimental work (Waking Life, Tape) and there’s nothing in his square, conventional style of film-making that would strike even Rosalie Mullins as remotely in-your-face. His main contribution seems to be let Jack get on with it not a bad ethos, as it turns out. Black, like Linklater, benefits from returning to the scene of an earlier success the first glimpse many audiences got of him was way back in 1994’s The Neverending Story III, when he (hammily) played a school bully of implausibly advanced years.

A decade on, Black goes all-out to ensure nobody steals his show. Several of the kids make an impact (Kevin Clarks punk-as-f*ck drummer, Miranda Cosgroves over-achieving manager) but the other adults barely get a look-in: Cusack is rather disappointingly shunted to the sidelines (the film seems to be moving towards Finn and Mullins getting it on, only to disappointingly wuss out), while Sarah Silverman, as Neds shrewish girlfriend Patti, is stuck in a one-dimensional cardboard-villainess role. Its often corny, usually predictable – but while School of Rock is bounding across the screen, you don’t have the time or inclination to pick holes in Whites script. Propelled along by Black in irrepressible form, this is just a great night-out-at-the-pictures crowdpleaser.

Neil Young

3rd February, 2004 (seen 17th January : Fokus Cinema, Troms Troms International Film Festival closing film)

click here for a full list of reviewed films from the Troms International Film Festival 2004

by Neil Young