Jack Black is warping and twisting young minds and he's doing it in School. Maybe his methods are inappropriate. Maybe he's not "politically correct". Maybe he's not actually teaching anything of "value". But baby... he sure knows how to rock.
The School of Rock is Dead Poets Society if Robin Williams were replaced by a rock n' roll loving Sasquatch with a weakness for Guinness. It stars the aforementioned Mr. Black as Dewey, a music obsessed loser, freshly kicked out of his unsuccessful and completely unknown band for his outrageous antics. Unwilling to give up his dreams of making a living in music, Dewey gets desperate and takes a job meant for his substitute teacher friend.
Dewey/Jack is of course horribly unsuited to teaching. The only important thing he does on the first day of school is browbeat his class into giving him a sandwich. On day two he resigns himself to napping and just throwing the kids out the door for permanent recess. No, he isn't won over by the beauty of teaching. Instead he discovers the musical talents of his class, chunks the lesson plan out the window, and starts perverting them into his own personal metal band. With them, he hopes to win the Battle of the Bands and a really really big check.
This is FINALLY a role that fits Jack Black. He's done some good work in other comedies... Shallow Hal for instance had some inspired moments. But none of his previous efforts, except perhaps his supporting role in High Fidelity has so perfectly embraced and nourished his musical madman persona. Honestly, I'm not sure where the character of Dewey Finn ends and Jack Black begins. School of Rock is one big excuse for Jack Black to stand in a room and do his thing. It's beautiful.
Joan Cusack wanders the halls when Jack takes a break from the teaching thing, pestering him as any good anal retentive principle should. Yeah, she's a bit of a tightass, but not an over the top caricature of an evil school principle. This is actually one of the best roles I've seen Joan Cusack in lately. She even manages to come off pretty cute.
The kids themselves are non sequiturs. Background matting on which Jack can paint his musical madness. None of them are stand out bad, nor are any of them unusually talented. That's fine. They aren't the point. They do a great job playing their instruments, it looks real (which it may or may not be), and for the purposes of this movie that's all we really need from them.
The best thing about the kids is that Director Richard Linklater never gets sappy over them. There are some emotional breakthroughs with Jack, but School of Rock doesn't drip over them like some Oscar hungry wildebeest. No matter what sort of pseudo-emotional moment happens, it always goes right back to Jack doing something that can only be classified as patently irresponsible and insane. Good. Thank you! Because frankly, that's what we'll all be paying for.
Yes, as mentioned above, this is a Richard Linklater film. Don't expect something groundbreaking though. Sure, he throws in some pretty interesting touches. The opening credits sequence for instance is flat out COOL and shows a nice flash of unbridled creativity. It doesn't matter. This movie is, as it rightfully should be, all about Jack.
The musical sequences are without a doubt the highlight. A smart mix of hard rocking power ballads and Tenacious D like originals... much of which I'd swear Jack is improvising right there on the spot. It isn't ALL music though and frankly I think they could have worked in even more of it into the plot somehow. Jack Black in a musical? Yes! Most importantly however, is that Dewey Finn LOVES music and his love transfers right on over to you, whether you love his particular audio style or not.
No mistake, this is the best work we've seen from Mr. Black thus far. School of Rock is a comedic power ballad with none of the foibles of other kiddie driven flicks. The camera is squared in on that rockin Sasquatch... watch him do his thing.