"School of Rock’ doesn’t
Actor Jack Black and writer Mark White made a movie that’s, well, just too black and white.
The stereotypical characters in “School of Rock” diminish what could’ve been a hysterical movie into a run-of-the-mill sitcom. There’s the immature rocker, the shrewish girlfriend, her doormat boyfriend, the uptight principal, the overly concerned parents and the geeky prep-school kids.
I didn’t expect much from the plot – it followed the formula: Wild man shakes up rigid, rule-bound kids, and it ends in a rockin’ good time. But interesting, endearing characters would’ve made the difference in “School of Rock.”
As a supporting actor, Black’s wide-eyed merrymaking won me over in “Orange County,” but as the main character in “School of Rock,” his amped-up John-Bulishi/Chris Farley antics overpower the film.
Black plays an irresponsible rocker named Dewey Finn, who’s so obsessed with himself, he can’t understand why his band mates have booted him out and his roommate refuses to cover his share of rent anymore.
When he takes a job as a substitute fifth-grade teacher, he throws out lesson plans in favor of starting a rock band made up of 10-year-olds.
In “Orange County,” it’s easy to like Black’s burnt-out character whose misguided attempts stem from the love he has for his brother. The fact he’s so screwed up, yet so genuinely good, made me want to embrace him like a worn-out teddy bear.
But in “School of Rock,” Black’s out for himself for most of the movie, which makes him hard to like. I couldn’t help but get an eerie feeling about this “loser” being in charge of kids.
The humor garners several quiet “hmmps” throughout, but not much to warrant a loud laugh.
The movie gains momentum near the end when Dewey learns about responsibility and selflessness and the kids start rocking. Until then, the thin humor is barely enough to go on. (Though, if you’re a big fan of Black, you’ll probably love the movie regardless.)
It’s PG-13 rating is hardly warranted, since it’s a film 10-, 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds would probably love. The “rude humor” the MMPA rated it for includes things like one of the fifth-graders saying “groupies are sluts” and using the word “ass.” The drug references are mild: One when Dewey tells the kids he’s hung over and another when rockers take a kid out to their van, and apparently, play poker.
Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Jack Black vehicle works
Perhaps it is because I had not seen a movie in several months and am less familiar than Kimberly with the stereotypical characters and formulaic plots of Hollywood, but “School of Rock” did just that.
The soundtrack is good, Jack Black is hilarious and the kids even elicited some empathy from me – and I normally don’t care about any screenwriter’s creation.
In Jack Black’s first official vehicle – a movie Mark White wrote with him in mind – the latter-day Meatloaf goes from deadbeat musician to teacher at a prestigious prep school by stealing his roomate’s identity.
The plot moves along at a nice pace as Black’s character, Dewey Finn, first treats teaching the bright minds at the private school as just a way to procure rent money. Then he hears the kids in (classical) music class, recognizes their talent and decides to enlist them as soldiers in his rock revolution – using them to show up the band that fired him.
If you like rock n’ roll, this movie is hard not to enjoy. All the rock cliches are represented, from over-the-top guitar solos to Motown-style backup singers to bad-boy drummers. Black’s lesson plans take the form of rock history – focusing on Jimi Hendrix, The Who, AC/DC, etc.
Also, his possessed-rocker facial expressions for which he has become famous are on full display.
I actually learned something at this movie. In maestro-ing a
classroom-sized rock band, one gets a great feeling for how a rock song is written and arranged. For those who wonder how Black’s rock band, Tenacious D, produces its farcical, rock-opera albums, this movie provides a nice glimpse.
Meanwhile, the kids can really play. There are some trite issues among them: The guitarist’s overbearing dad hates rock; the talented back-up singer is self-conscious; the precocious band manager is too grade-conscious.
In true movie form, all issues come full circle with a few kind words (the sitcom nature of the film that Kimberly talks about).
But this isn’t a surprise. In fact, everyone except Black’s foil in the film – Sarah Silverman’s Patty, the overbearing girlfriend who has played opposite Black before – ends up better off than when the movie started.
One last positive about this movie: Joan Cusack’s performance as the private school principal is dead on. Especially when her character is revealed to be a misunderstood, closet rocker with a soft spot for Stevie Nicks.
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