I wasn’t originally planning to do another SMReviews Loves post, this is about the time where I’d be ripping into a cinematic black spot, an abomination of entertainment. But with cinemas back open on Monday, I needed to keep the positive energy flowing through my veins and keep my excitement levels going. By shear coincidence, I stumbled upon School of Rock randomly on Netflix trying to come up with what film I would write about. I remember as a kid how this film made me entertained, but now after rewatching it carefully, I never realised as well as entertaining, School of Rock is genius.
Directed by Richard Linklater, School of Rock follows down on his luck musician Dewey Finn (Jack Black). He lives with his pushover friend and substitute teacher Ned Schneebly (Mike White), and Ned’s assertive girlfriend Patty (Sarah Silverman). Having been kicked out of his own band, Dewey gets a call from the principal of Horace Green Prep School Mrs. Mullins (Joan Kusack) asking for Ned to teach in her school. After hearing how much he’ll be paid, Dewey impersonates Ned and gets the job. Dewey overhears his students in music class and decides to form a rock band with them to win the Battle of the Bands competition.
What is immediately identifiable is just how much fun this film is. School of Rock is a very casual feeling film and doesn’t require that much of an effort to follow along. This fun attitude is bolstered by many factors but of course the biggest factor is Jack Black. Whether you love or hate his goofball acting style, there’s no denying that he has a lot of energy, very unique energy, and I believe that if anyone else were to play his character, they couldn’t match his eccentricity. His performance pretty much portrays the ideal spirit of rock and roll, however as the story progresses, you see Dewey really come into the teaching role and becomes a responsible role model to the kids.
Speaking of which, if you though the character of Dewey was great, it has nothing on the character arcs of the children. There are a lot of arcs to go through, so I’ve narrowed it down to my favourites. The first being Freddie (Kevin Clark), the obvious problem child of the class. There are a lot of important features that make his transformation one of the best in the film. He’s given the drummer role and because of Dewey’s methods, he starts to realise his own potential and becomes the most engaged student, solidified by him watching tapes of famous drummers in the classroom on his own.
Another character to take notice of is Tomika (Maryam Hassan). She is originally given a role of roadue by Dewey, but he gives her the role of singer after hearing her incredible voice. But the crucial scene that makes her arc one to pay attention to is when she gets nervous about auditioning for Battle of the Bands as she believes because of her weight, she’ll be laughed at. It’s Dewey’s empathetic words and experiences that bring her out of her shell. She reaches the peak of her talents when she performs a vocal solo in the final performance.
You can see a pattern here with the children characters can’t you. Through Dewey’s teachings, they realise that they each have unique talents worth expressing, and at some point in the film, they will have a scene to themselves where their talents peak and you feel like a proud parent watching these scenes.
Being a film about rock and roll, of course you have a legendary soundtrack and original songs to follow. The soundtrack is like a rock and roll greatest collection playlist. A good piece of evidence of School of Rock being the penultimate rock film is how they were able to convince Led Zeppelin to use their “Immigrant Song”. There’s a video online of Jack Black making a plea to Led Zeppelin to use their song as the band are very hesitant of people using their songs. But the original songs Dewey and the children create are equally amazing. Plus, there’s no sound trickery involved with the children playing the instruments, that is genuine. In fact, it was the condition Linklater put on the table if he were to direct this film.
School of Rock is a directional detour for Richard Linklater, he’s very much been on the front lines of the indie scene, so this film is effectively his first dip of the toes into the mainstream. I think the lessons learned during his time making independent films have worked wonders for School of Rock. Fantastically written characters and high energy performance from Jack Black have given me a new, fresh take on this film. This film wasn’t a feature in any of my film lists, but now it made a leapfrog jump onto the list of my most enjoyable films.