Having done everything from romantic dramas to science-fiction thrillers, Richard Linklater can’t be accused of only doing one type of movie. However his love of rock music was evident in Dazed and Confused so he was the perfect guy to harness the manic energy of real-life rocker Jack Black for School Of Rock (2003). Written by Mike White, who also worked on the criminally overlooked TV show Freaks and Geeks, this rock’n’roll comedy has the old concept of the teacher who bonds with his students, except this teacher’s curriculum focuses on the historical importance of everyone from The Who to Led Zeppelin. I wish I could have signed up for this class.
A couple of things about this movie: It came out in October of 2003, a few months after I had moved back to Quebec after having lived in South America for several years That was when I realized most movies in Quebec come out dubbed in French, which I hate because I want to hear the original actors speak no matter the language. Instead I rented the DVD; full of behind-the-scenes goodness such as the debate as to whether or not they should call it School Of Rock or The School Of Rock. I don’t own a copy of the movie, but soon after I got the CD for the awesome soundtrack and eventually started getting the albums of classic rock bands featured in the film such as The Who, AC/DC, and Led Zeppelin. Those kids weren’t the only ones to get a musical education.
Black’s character, would-be rocker Dewey Finn, is the last person you would expect to teach at a prestigious prep school. All he wants to do is rock, but his band kicks him out because of his on-stage antics. Vowing to form his own band, Dewey’s plans are seriously thwarted when his roommate Ned (Mike White) is pressured by his girlfriend (Sarah Silverman in a thankless role) to have him evicted because Dewey is behind on the rent. With no job and no money, Dewey finds a temporary solution when he takes a phone call intended for Ned about a substitute teacher job at Horace Green School. Pretending to be Ned, Dewey tricks principal Rosalie Mullins (Joan Cusack) into giving him the job.
It’s a pretty lazy ploy and Dewey seems aware of it. He knows he will get caught eventually, but until then he will get paid so he just tells the kids that from now on it’s free time all the time. That is until he hears them playing in music class and realizes that in addition to a solution to his money problem he may have found a solution to his rock band problem. New class project: forget math or science, these kids are now going to be practicing every day to play in an upcoming battle of the bands. When the students tell Dewey their favourite artists are Christina Aguilera and Puff Daddy, he is horrified and also begins to teach them the history of rock’n’roll. Well, at least they are learning something.
The film is of course very predictable. The uptight principal Mullins will loosen up once she hears some Stevie Knicks playing on a jukebox, some very upset parents will eventually catch Dewey, and there will be a big performance by the students rocking out at the battle of the bands. The film gets away with it thanks to Black’s energy when he is teaching the ins and outs of rock and when he is performing on stage with the kids, who are also hugely talented. In addition to a grand performance of the title song School Of Rock they also do an awesome cover of AC/DC’s It’s A Long Way To The Top.
This may not be the most original high school movie ever made, but it is a lot of fun, it’s a rocking’ good time, and it features an awesome soundtrack. Long live rock.