Directed by: Richard Linklater
Starring: Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Miranda Cosgrove, Joey Gaydos, Kevin Clark.
Rated: PG-13 for some rude humor and drug references.
Parental Notes: As other reviewers have noted, this movie does not deserve a PG-13 rating. There is some rude humor and drug references, but this is a movie kids will love, especially if they like rock music.
Recently there’s been a spate of children’s movies which also cater to adults – “Finding Nemo,” “Shrek,” et al. “School of Rock,” however, sets a new bar as a kid flick that parents will probably enjoy even more than their children.
Dewey Finn (Jack Black) is a loser of a rock musician. He’s a slob, has been thrown out of the unsuccessful rock band he founded, and is way behind on his rent. When a call comes in for his roommate (Mike White, who also wrote the script), a substitute teacher, Dewey fakes his way into a new gig: teaching fifth grade at an exclusive prep school. The kids are overachievers, their parents are incredibly high-pressure, and Dewey fits in about as well as a hedgehog at a hamster convention.
Then he hears his class at music lessons and realizes that as annoying as some of them are, these kids can play. He assigns the best of them to instruments and gives the others supporting positions like “roadie,” and begins molding them into a rock band. His goal: get into the local Battle of the Bands with them backing him instead of his former band. The kids go along with it, thanks to a quickly concocted story about it being a special inter-school competition that he’s giving them a head start on.
Dewey is consumed with an idealistic passion for rock music and the movie takes it as seriously as he does. One great show, Dewey tells the kids, can change your world. When Dewey asks the kids what rock music is about, they come up with answers like “scoring chicks” and “getting wasted.” No, Dewey tells them, it’s about sticking it to The Man, whether The Man is uptight Principal Mullins (Joan Cusack) or their parents or even Dewey himself. Rock is about freedom and having a good time.
This is definitely a movie that’s having a good time, and it’s hard not to have fun right along with it. Jack Black is flawless as Dewey, taking all the pent-up energy we’ve seen in his roles in the past (especially his belligerent record store clerk in “High Fidelity”) and turning it into a fanatical love of music. Black himself is a musician, with his rock-parody band Tenacious D, and it’s clear from his work here that he’s got talent.
The kids are talented too, and not just at playing their instruments. These performances have a natural feel to them, from busybody Summer (Miranda Cosgrove) to cowed would-be rock guitarist Zack (Joey Gaydos). It’s obvious that the kids and Black got along famously, and director Richard Linklater (“Waking Life”) is more than able to keep this from being a preachy kids movie. These kids are just kids – unpredictable, smart, and eager to learn fun stuff.
“School of Rock” shines brightest when it is deftly sidestepping opportunities to be heavy handed and preachy. Whether they’re letting Dewey’s roommate Ned stand up for himself in a subtle way instead of being browbeaten, or having Dewey berate some other rock’n’rollers for being a bad influence on his students, this unbeatable team handle everything with style and sly wit. This is a fantastic film and one the whole family, especially parents who love rock’n’roll, will love.