School of Rock Review
By Joe Lozito
It must be nice to have a friend like Mike White. The prolific writer (and, to a lesser extent, actor) responsible for such varied fare as "Chuck & Buck", "Orange County" and "The Good Girl" has now crafted the ideal showcase for comic whirlwind Jack Black. As Dewey Finn, Mr. Black gets to capitalize on everything he does best - basically being Jack Black. And loudly.
Mr. Black's persona has always been a "Blues Brothers"-era John Belushi by way of Adam Sandler and like those two comics before him, Mr. Black has always worked well with music. "School of Rock", about a rock wannabe who becomes a third grade teacher and winds up turning his class into a rock band, is Mr. Black's "Wedding Singer". It's a good Adam Sandler movie propelled by a palpable love of the material. The addition of director Richard Linklater ("Dazed & Confused", "Slacker", "Waking Life") serves to steer the film away from the pitfalls that typically plague movies featuring children. "School" doesn't pander to the kids, treat them as know-it-alls, or allow Mr. Black to become overly sympathetic.
From the opening moments, when the credits appear on the walls of a dive bar and Dewey proclaims, "You think it's easy? I'm out there on the frontlines every night rocking!" this movie hits more perfect notes than a Jimi Hendrix solo. When Dewey needs money to pay the rent, he cons his way into a job as a substitute teacher. Thankfully, the kids in his class are not made to be precious and they are never talked down to. They act like regular kids. And, in another stroke of inspiration, they actually have more interest in learning that Mr. Black does in teaching. That is, of course, until he realizes he can teach them to rock.
This is when the movie really gets going. Dewey's lessons on "the history of rock" and "rock appreciation" are actually fascinating. There is so much obvious love for the subject coupled with a real intelligence and knowledge. A montage sequence actually squanders what could have been some really interesting lessons for the audience as well as the on screen children.
As inspired as the premise may be, however, it starts to run out of gas slightly before the climactic "Battle of the Bands". Dewey is put in one too many sticky situations with the stuffy principal (Joan Cusack, wound tight enough to burst yet again). The movie is redeemed in the "Battle" itself which, like the end of "The Full Monty," is impossible not to love. For a moment, the band really does rock, and transcends the novelty act that it must inevitably be. Whether Mr. Black can do the same with the rest of his career remains to be seen.