School of Rock

School of Rock is a fun comedy starring Jack Black as a frustrated rock star wannabe who poses as a substitute teacher at a posh prep school. It is paint by numbers light-hearted comedy, but thanks to some decent writing and a good performance from Jack, the film is both amusing and entertaining.

Mike White wrote the film and he co-stars as Jack´s doormat room mate. Apparently he wrote the part specifically for Jack and it definitely shows. The success of Tenacious D proved Black´s rock comedy abilities and he uses them to great effect here but they are somewhat toned down for a younger audience.

Jack Black teaching the history of rock

From the start of the film we are treated to the loud overbearing performance we´ve all come to expect from Jack. As Dewey Finn, he is a member of a rock band still desperately trying to make the big time and after an especially embarrassing performance he is unceremoniously dumped from the act. Naturally he vows to get revenge by forming his own band and winning the local Battle of the Bands competition.

Unfortunately for Dewey his room mate Ned (Mike White) has a new girlfriend, Patty (Sarah Silverman), and she doesn´t like having a lazy sponger around the house. She prods, hardworking teacher, Ned into asking for the money he is owed which puts Dewey into a panic. After Ned laughs at the suggestion that Dewey could cope as a substitute teacher you know exactly what is coming next. Cue Dewey dressing up and taking a job offered to Ned without his knowledge.

He turns up at the posh school to meet Principal Mullins (Joan Cusack), an uptight character who doesn´t seem too questioning about the teachers she employs. At this point in the movie we are introduced to the kids, this could have been the moment that the film failed. Luckily the kids they chose are not too cute or annoying and they each acted their parts well.

Jack Black with the kids

Black´s charisma and natural talent when it comes to rock music really bursts through the screen here as he begins to teach the kids. I sometimes find him grating but this part seemed to suit him perfectly and anyone else who was into rock when they were younger will recognise a lot of the bands he talks about. He builds a new band from the assembled group of youngsters and tells them it is a school related project which will end with an all schools competition, which is of course total rubbish, he actually wants them to play the Battle of the Bands with him.

The set pieces in the plot are all very familiar and unoriginal but there are some funny gags and the direction from Richard Linklater is good as are the acting performances. You know how the thing will pan out from the start, but after all this is just light entertainment, it isn´t meant to challenge and as a mildly diverting comedy it works really well.

After playing a number of bizarre supporting characters this is the first time I have seen Jack Black cast in the leading role and with a very sympathetic part he does a great job. I think his best comedy has been with Tenacious D and that comes through with this character which elevates the performance compared to his previous displays.

This isn´t a great film but it is a lot of fun and worth spending 108 minutes on. It has a few laughs and manages to avoid becoming sickly sweet, sweeping past like a pleasant breeze and leaving nothing behind other than a faint smile.

Reviewed by Simon Hill

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