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Laramie Movie Scope:
School of Rock

A funny rock and roll blast

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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October 8, 2003 -- “School of Rock” is a movie with an electric performance by funnyman Jack Black, a very funny story and several songs in its heart. In the same way “The Blues Brothers” carried the banner for the blues, this film carries the banner for classic rock and roll. This is the real stuff, not that lame brain pop music that pollutes the airwaves these days. The film wears its heart on its sleeve, and it is one huge sleeve. It is formulaic and predictable, but it sure is fun to watch, mainly because of two great performances by Jack Black and Joan Cusack who both starred in another great music film, “High Fidelity.”

Black stars as Dewey Finn, an out-of-work musician who takes a temporary teaching job by pretending to be his roommate, Ned Schneebly (Mike White of “Orange County,” who also wrote the screenplay). Finn and Schneebly were in a band together, but Schneebly decided to quit and become a teacher. Finn, despite a number of setbacks, has never given up on his dream of being a rock and roll star. When Finn discovers his classroom students at the prestigious Horace Green Elementary School have serious musical talent he hatches a scheme to turn his class into a powerful rock and roll band so he can win an upcoming band competition. What starts out as a fairly manipulative scheme ends up being educational for both the kids and their teacher as Finn finds himself becoming a responsible adult, and finding that he does have something he can teach the kids. He not only teaches them about music, but he teaches them to believe in themselves, their talent and in their passion for music.

Joan Cusack plays the repressed principal of the school. She is wound tight, afraid to make a mistake. It turns out that beneath her shell of insecurity is a Stevie Nicks groupie waiting to emerge. The kids in Finn's class are also wound pretty tight. They are under a lot of pressure from the school, and their parents, to excel. Finn releases them from the pressure. He teaches them that they can achieve something great and have fun at the same time. This is, of course, a formula movie. The basic outline is the same as films like “The Bad News Bears” and “The Mighty Ducks.” A lot depends on the performance of the kids of the film, and they are good, especially Kevin Alexander Clark as the drummer, and Miranda Cosgrove, who plays Summer Hathaway, the manager of the band. The kids who play members of the band are also real musicians and the singers can really sing. Jack Black is also a real singer and musician. All of this makes the film more credible.

Black really carries the film with his incredible energy, animation and passion. He's a dynamo as he agitates everyone around him, causing all kinds of changes. To draw another parallel to “The Blues Brothers,” Black is similar to John Belushi, who had that same kind of energy and passion. There are a lot of similarities between the two performers. There was a darker edge to Belushi's humor, but Black is a far better singer, and is a more likeable character. White's screenplay is very clever and surprisingly nuanced. It stops just short of being too sentimental, and it has a lot of funny one-liners. It treats all the characters with respect, except for Schneebly's girlfriend, Patty (Sarah Silverman of “Evolution”), who is portrayed as a shrill shrew. The main characters are given some depth, including the children, who are also given dignity. Cusack's character is given a somewhat sympathetic portrayal, unlike similar authority figures in similar comedies, who are one-dimensional fall guys, the object of merciless abuse. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2003 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)