Movie Reviews by EDF and Susan Hodgetts
Starring: Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White, Sarah Silverman, Joey Gaydos
Director: Richard Linklater
Review by EDF
It comes as a bit of a surprise that even though reality television shows such as POP IDOLS have sparked off young peoples ambition to become bland pop stars, it is refreshing to find a movie that goes back to the core of how music should be played and performed. With Jack Black looking for some overdue recognition for the talent that he is, what better than making him the lead in a comedy movie about inspiring young kids to play rock music. While it does not sound appealing and believe me the sceptics are already out, what we have here is a movie that will surprise.
Jack Black is the hapless Dewey Finn who plays lead guitar in his own band. Finn has a regular habit of performing 20-minute guitar solos and stage diving. Trying to stir some confidence in his band, he announces that they should enter the local Battle of the Bands. They agree to but fire Finn from his own band. Finn finds himself without any money to pay his rent arrears, of which he has to pay up to his roommate Ned (Mike White). Desperate for some quick cash, he picks up a phone call for a job intended for Ned and proceeds to impersonate Ned whose profession is that of a substitute teacher.
The principle at the prestigious Horace Green Elementary School is the eagle eyed Principal Mullins (Joan Cusack). Not knowing how to teach or relate to the young fifth graders he has been put in charge of, Finn finds a middle ground to work on when he discovers the fifth graders performing in an orchestra class. Finn then proceeds to use the fifth graders as his new backing band to use for the Battle of the Bands. Using lies and deceits on his class and Principal Mullins to cover his true intentions, can he transform these ten year-olds into a rock band and what would their parents ever say if they found out?
I am saying this for the record; this is one of the most entertaining comedy movies that I have seen in years. I was not expecting much from this movie but it is without a doubt a joy from start to finish. First of all, Jack Black is just so entertaining as a music nut that would do anything to stick it to the man. The kids in the movie do not come across as sickly cute unlike most other movies that feature kids. Not only that, these kids can actually perform what is played for real.
Throughout the movie there is always that element of suspense where Finn could easily be found out at any moment, making SCHOOL OF ROCK engaging. As the movie progresses, you just want Finn to succeed. SCHOOL OF ROCK could easily be compared to FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, as in a strange way we would love to get away with doing something as outrageous as Finn does. The movie also works on both levels for kids and adults alike. With a few genuine laugh out loud moments, this is one of the best feel-good movies to come out in a long time.
Review by Susan Hodgetts
Jack Black explodes onto the screen for the duration of SCHOOL OF ROCK like a permanently charged Duracell bunny and boy are you not allowed to forget it. There’s no way round it. Or him. He’s 10 times more hyperactive than all the kids put together, 10 times as loud and several times as big – and he’s also pretty funny.
Black stars as Dewey Finn, an anti-establishment hell-raising guitarist whose entire life is devoted to rock and roll. When his band mates fire him from his own band, he’ll go to any lengths to be in the local Battle of the Bands contest. Wallowing in self-pity and five million take out cartons, he takes a phone call intended for his friend and roommate Ned, a substitute teacher.
Hearing the amount of money the position offers, Dewey pretends to be Ned and rashly accepts. He knows nothing about teaching but when he sees his fifth graders in a music class he realises that the job could offer more than a solution to just his money problems. So he turns his fifth-grade class into a band and tells them it’s a “school project.”
Black, who fronts his own band Tenacious D in real life, receives excellent support from the always-superb Joan Cusack, as the uptight school principle Rosie Mullins, and from the kids themselves, who are scarily natural. Their ages range from 10 to 14 and Miranda Cosgrove, who plays ‘band manager’ Summer, is in fact only 10, yet her characterisation is so spot on it’s incredible.
All of the kids are good, and a cheesy ending was nicely avoided with a great song well performed, and to my surprise, a genuinely exciting finale.
The only thing that didn’t ring true was the fact that there was no bullying or jealousy within the class. It’s hard to believe that the others never got annoyed by Summer because her character is excruciatingly irritating. She’s one of those smarty-pants bossy, snooty kids that everyone hates and how she didn’t manage to infuriate them is beyond me.
The movie was also a bit too long in places, dragging slightly in the classroom scenes as this was just Black finding new ways to entertain whilst trying to build up the band’s progression.
But kids will love it. Jack Black fans will simply adore it. He seems to play closer to himself than any of his movies before, perhaps because of the rock thing that the man himself and his character have in common.
Black’s constant mugging can wear you out – this guy don’t need no keep fit regime – so recline comfortably in your seat, watch someone else do all the work, suspend your disbelief and enjoy.