During the early part of the 21st century, a couple of rebellious new movie heroes have surfaced, standing head and shoulders above their more conventional counterparts. Inspiring followers with the conviction of their message, they cause ire and outrage among the staid establishment, to the point where they themselves face sacrifice in order that their ethos can prevail.
In true superhero fashion, Dewey takes on an alternate persona to preach his particular gospel, that in the beginning, there was rock. He even reduces his borrowed identity from the unwieldy ‘Ned Schneebly’ to a Clark Kent-esque ‘Mr. S’, surreptitiously invading a private centre of learning initially intending to bum around and make some quick cash, but coming to realise that the 10-year-old little rich kids in his charge could be the rowdiest thing in school uniform since Angus Young. R & R suddenly ceases to mean ‘rest and relaxation’, and recess is over at the School of Rock.
It’s the Black and White minstrel show all the way here - Mike White’s screenplay was written specifically so that his friend and near-neighbour Jack Black could take a starring role in a hit commercial movie, and the script is as tailored to Black’s slob-with-a-heart talents as any star vehicle in recent memory. Indeed, Dewey could almost be an extension of Black’s obsessive music-store assistant in High Fidelity, the last American picture to combine box-office expectations with a ‘Mojo’/’Record Collector’ sensibility. White’s lines occasionally hit the mark with such total perfection that you find yourself holding up heavy metal devil signs at the screen in tribute – at one point, a shy and underachieving young lad is so encouraged by Dewey’s educational methods that he writes a killer number for the juvenile combo to perform at the upcoming ‘Battle Of The Bands’, featuring the lyrical hook “rock is the reason, rock is the rhyme”; admirable sentiments maybe, but fine-tuned beyond compare by Black to read “rock got no reason, rock got no rhyme”. Correct. Ten out of ten.
Some claim this is nothing more than a family film. Tell me, how many ‘family films’ reference the percussive skills of Neil Peart, Buddy Rich and Keith Moon? Or display the names of such influential greats as Husker Du and the Butthole Surfers on a blackboard during classroom scenes? Or advocate listening to Yes, Led Zeppelin and ‘Axis: Bold As Love’ as homework? Or climax with a bunch of ankle-biters rampaging through a searing version of AC/DC’s ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top’?
Indie-buffs and the Sundance crowd may baulk at seeing Richard Linklater’s name attached to this project, but School of Rock contains every bit as much insight and wordly-wisdom as his ambitious animated experiment Waking Life, all the counter-culture cool and appreciation of good sounds exhibited by the casts of Slacker and Dazed and Confused, and a glorious romanticism to rival that of the director’s Before Sunrise/Before Sunset duo. If loud guitars, heavy rhythm, screaming vocals, attitude, and sticking it to The Man matter to you, even in the tiniest way, do not play truant but book yourself into this School immediately. In another White-authored zinger near the end of the movie, the spiky-haired tyke on drums reflects on how “The Sex Pistols never won anything” – if that line resonates with you in any way, this might just be the best damn rock’n’roll picture you’ll ever experience.
Skilled indie director, specialising in dialogue-driven comedy-drama. Linklater's 1989 debut Slacker was an unusual but well-realised portrait of disaffected 20-something life in his home town of Austin, Texas, while many consider Dazed and Confused, his warm but unsentimental snapshot of mid-70s youth culture, to be one of the best teen movies ever made. Linklater's first stab at the mainstream - comedy western The Newton Boys - was a disappointment, but Before Sunrise, SubUrbia, Tape and the animated Waking Life are all intelligent, intriguing pictures.