ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Finally, a School that rocks!
School of Rock
Starring: Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White
Director: Richard Linklater
By Jordan Smith
Gazette file photo
BIGGER THAN THE BEATLES. Jack Black
teaches his class the A-B-C's of rock 'n' roll in School
Jack Black has begun establishing a career
playing dumb, fat hipsters. But can he carry a whole film on
his back? As School
of Rock shows, the answer is an unqualified “yes.”
Having had his breakout role in High Fidelity, Black has shown
he can single-handedly rescue terrible movies from their otherwise
certain fate of forgettable oblivion. Witness Shallow Hal,
Saving Silverman and Orange County, three movies that without
Black, would be embarrassing. They still are, but at least
there are some laughs thrown in.
Here’s the synopsis: embarrassingly bad rock guitarist
Dewey (Black) is kicked out of his band. He intercepts a call
intended for his substitute teacher roommate; claiming to be
his roommate, Dewey becomes a teacher at an elite elementary
private school. Needing to get into a battle of the bands,
Dewey turns these rock-ignoramus children into his band. The
principal (Cusack) seems to be on his trail as Black teaches
the children nothing but rock ’n’ roll. Hilarity
School of Rock succeeds largely because it
cranks up the laughs and turns down the sap. It’s still formulaic: the happy
ending is inevitable and there’s a warm, fuzzy message
about following your dreams, or something. But because the
kids are genuinely likable and Black is honestly enjoying himself,
the clichés are bearable.
It’s not all scriptwriting-for-dummies, though. Miraculously,
there’s no love story between the uptight principal (Cusack)
and the protagonist. The principal is also humanized and dislikes
her own stuffiness, going beyond the two-dimensional cutouts
of, say, Old School.
But, of course, all comedies rise and fall
on the number of laughs they have. And School of Rock has a
good number. There
is a catch, though: the more the individual audience members
know about rock ’n’ roll, the more jokes they will
get and the more they will laugh. Much of the humour revolves
around poking fun at rock’s Spinal Tap-ish campiness
and cheesy theatrics.
Black is obviously tailor-made for this role
and New York Times Magazine reports the screenwriter wrote
the script with Black
in mind. Black’s musical project, Tenacious D, indulges
in the same kind of humor: jokes about rockin’ out and
getting rocked hard.
The reason this movie also works is because
Black does worship rock ’n’ roll, but he also knows
how to laugh at it. His sincerity is palpable in every frame
and the kids are
both good musicians and passable actors.
This movie is for everyone who always knew
rock ’n’ roll, even if you like it. For some of
us, though, it just takes longer to figure that out.