When wannabe rock star Dewey Finn (Jack Black) gets kicked out of his own band and his room-mate Ned Schneebly (Mike White) needs money for the rent, Dewey fakes his way into a substitute job at a local prep school, only to discover that the genius, upper class kids are also very adept at playing classical music. Dewey sees a chance to finally achieve his rock stardom dreams by moulding the kids into an awesome rock band.
School Of Rock is May’s Movie of the Month over at the LAMB, making it the perfect opportunity to cross it off Empire’s Top 500 Movies list, in which it placed at a shockingly high 188, above classics like Ghostbusters, Fargo, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Exorcist. Now granted, this is a list that places Andrei Rublev at number 36 and my beloved Jurassic Park waaaaaay down at 232, so clearly it’s not entirely correct, but even still I’m surprised at how high School Of Rock ranks. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a terrific and hugely entertaining film with very little – if anything – really wrong with it, but I’m surprised so many people included it above all the other possible movies when compiling their personal top 10 lists.
So what could have swayed them? Well, my guess would be that a great deal of voters perhaps saw this at a pivotal time in their lives, as it’s one of those great movies that is enjoyable for kids – especially if you’re around ten years old, like the kids in the film – but is also very entertaining for adults, so parents probably wouldn’t object to watching it multiple times for the sake of their offspring’s enjoyment. It’s also got a good balance of being light-hearted but with an important message (don’t be afraid to try something new, you can be whatever you want to be, yadda yadda yadda), and it features one of the best but still quintessential Jack Black performances, in which he gets to be a little crude and very brash, but in a way that makes sense with his character and never quite reaches the level of annoying that he summits in some of his lesser work. I’m reluctant to laud the praises of this film at the director’s feet, given that said director is Richard Linklater, of whom I’m not the biggest fan, but seeing as how he also worked very well with Black in one of his other few decent films, Bernie, then I suppose credit should be given where it’s due.
Black’s leading role wouldn’t work without the children though, and whilst many of them don’t give the strongest performances in history – most haven’t done a great deal since and were probably cast more for their musical abilities than anything else – they are all at least passable, and often a lot of fun. Highlights are Kevin Clark as Freddy “Spazzy McGee” Jones the percussionist (“What do you like to do?” “I dunno, burn stuff.”) and Miranda Cosgrove as Summer Hathaway, the band’s manager. It helps that I love the soundtrack too, and it’s amusing watched young children playing the likes of AC/DC and Black Sabbath. Joan Cusack is also phenomenal as Principal Mullins, the unintentionally uptight school headmistress who serves as Dewey’s main obstacle in taking the kids to the upcoming Battle of the Bands competition.
In fact I really only have one problem with the film, and it’s a very slight one at that. There are a few scenes where Dewey has lunch with the other teachers at the school. The P.E. teacher is played by Wally Dunn. It’s a small role, and Dunn plays it fine, but the problem is he looks quite a lot like Kyle Gass, Black’s Tenacious D partner, and every time I watch this movie I sigh that for some reason Gass wasn’t cast in the role. It bothers me, I should just learn to get over it, but it will continue to annoy me forever more.
Choose Film 8/10