Race: An Abridged Script




STEPHAN JAMES runs past a fire in a trash can and a line of people waiting for free bread, and they nod in approval because he is a SYMBOL of HOPE, and hope is the thing with feathers, and no, wait, this is just a Hollywood sports biopic, so scratch that last.


Before he leaves for college, STEPHAN says goodbye to SHANICE BANTON, his girlfriend and mother of their daughter.

I’ve bade adieu to my supportive mom, various sibs and out-of-work dad, and now, I must take my leave of you and my adorable little girl. But I’ll send money, and maybe someday, we can actually get married. But since I’m supporting my dad and paying my way through school, it may take awhile.

Honey, don’t worry because I have a job, too. Plus, like 99 percent of biopic girlfriends/wives, I’m plucky, steadfast and supportive, except for the obligatory misunderstanding halfway through the movie.

Got it.

STEPHAN arrives at OHIO STATE and meets his new coach, JASON SUDEIKIS.


I know all about the records you’ve set. I know about the time you outran a cheetah, too, even though you were hungover. They don’t impress me much.

So you want to see me run for yourself. Fair enough.

No, dolt. I only care about medals, not records. I’m totally color-blind, except when it comes to getting those gold Olympic medals. The kind you can win in Berlin, interested?

Sure, but since when are the two mutually exclusive?

Shut up and listen. Records can be snatched away from you in seconds by some upstart and set you on the path to becoming an alcoholic second-rate coach. Medals are forever. Spit in one hand, hold a medal in the other, and see which feels heavier first. How do you like that metaphor?

Wait, aren’t you supposed to be telling me that it’s effort and hard work that matter more than winning? That there’s no “i” in “team”? What kind of movie coach are you?

The kind who is going to live vicariously through you, so get used to it.

Got it.

Meanwhile US OLYMPIC COMMITTEE member WILLIAM HURT sends JEREMY IRONS to Germany to lay down the law about the upcoming OLYMPICS to a group of NAZIs including BARNABY METSCHURAT as Joseph Goebbels and MARCUS BLUHM, who’s an architect in his free time.


This summer, we’re looking forward to welcoming the American Olympic team to Berlin. CARICE VAN HOUTEN’s shooting a documentary on the whole thing for HITLER, and well, it’s going to be a blast. As long as you don’t bring any Jewish or black athletes.

I don’t agree. As a proud, incorruptible American, I believe it’s the size of the athlete’s heart not their ethnicity that matters.

We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one. Are you coming or not?

Maybe, but those swastikas have got to go while we’re over here.

We’ll tone things down if you prefer.

We also demand non-segregated dorms for our athletes – unlike the ones we have at home.

Sure thing.

And we’d like seashell-shaped soap in the bathrooms, and after dinner mints on our pillows every night.

I’ll have to check our budget, but I’ll keep that in mind.

Could one of you guys at least try to inject some controversy into this subplot, please?

(steps forward)
Here, have a drink. You’ve been known to dabble in architecture, correct?

(takes drink)

Perhaps you’ll be willing to take a look at these building plans and give me advice?

You’re not trying to bribe me, are you?’

Of course not. Let’s drink a toast to honor, integrity and totally unnecessary subplots.

I can’t poss…oh, all right.

Here have a slice of bundt cake, too.


You missed the last practice, what’s up?

I had to work. As I’m supporting two families and all.

Yeah, well, here’s a cushy job as a page, so you’re all covered on that front. Happy?

I appreciate it, but those football players over there won’t stop heckling me.

Oh those idiots. You’ll just have to tune them out. Say to yourself: I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.

Got it.

While we’re at it, you may be faster than a cheetah, but you have lousy form. I want you to jog around with your knees up like a show pony for awhile.

Only if you play some music and get the other athletes to do it, so I don’t die of boredom.

That can be arranged.

Soon after this, STEPHAN starts winning meets and is headed to the Olympics when conflict rears its ugly head.

However, back at the OLYMPIC ASSOCIATION HEADQUARTERS, WILLIAM and JEREMY deliver impassioned speeches on the pros and cons of going to the Olympics, and the pros win!


A jubilant crowd is celebrating the good news.

(clearly drunk)
Hey, STEPHAN! Come and join us. Isn’t this awesome that we’re going to the Olympics?

No, I’ve just been informed that if I boycott the Olympics it will make a powerful statement that America doesn’t approve of what the Nazis are doing to the Jews. And that’s true. How can I do something that makes it looks like I condone racism, even if it’s abroad?

Oh, come on. You’re an athlete, not a civil rights activist. You’re really going to throw away this opportunity?

You don’t get it. I’m deeply conflicted over this moral dilemma, and you can’t possibly share my pain because you’re a second-rate alcoholic coach who missed his own shot at the Olympics. Plus you’re white.


(storms out)


(leans out of car)
STEPHAN, we need to talk. Last night, I blew out my knee trying to relive a moment from my youth and realized that I’m in no position to judge you or tell you what to do.

You’re using reverse psychology on me, aren’t you, Coach?

If you say so. Is anything else bothering you?

Yes, SHANICE saw a photo in the newspaper of me and this overly friendly girl I met at a meet, and she’s convinced we’re having an affair.

That’s a tough one. But I’m going to take a wild guess and predict that everything will work out in the end.


Can we talk, please?

You’re not the man I thought you were. Go away.

I’m a star athlete, okay? I’m going to get photographed, and some of the photos might even have people of the opposite gender in them…this isn’t working, is it?

Nope. Try again.

Will you marry me?

(pretends to think it over)
Why not?


Meanwhile CARICE VAN HOUTEN shows her opening FILM FOOTAGE to a group of approving Nazis who give it a standing ovation, and everyone is thrilled except BARNABY.

What’s with you? Though it’s hard to tell if you’re annoyed or if that’s just your natural expression.

I don’t like you at all. For one thing, you dress like a man. Clearly, you are over-stepping traditional gender roles.

Have you ever tried to get a good shot when it’s windy with a skirt on? Besides, aren’t we supposed to be on the same side?

Originally, I thought that too, but maybe we should establish again how rotten the Nazis truly are. In case, anyone had any lingering doubts.

OK, so you get to be the mustache twirling villain, and I get to be the crusader for free speech, not a propagandist. Sounds good to me. By the time, this movie is over, there will be absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Nazis are swamp scum.

At least, I have a speaking role. The guy playing Hitler only gets to scowl and grimace a lot.


On your mark, get set, go!

(sets record)

Wow, folks, it looks like we’ve got a real star here. The CGI crowd is going wild.

(sets another record, exceeds the speed of light while doing so)

Looks like the US is giving the finger to Hitler’s belief in Aryan supremacy. Is there anything this athlete can’t do?

(sprouts wings, high fives sun, sets new record)

Curses! Foiled again.

(stage whisper)
This documentary’s gonna rock!


Come on, let’s go meet the Fuhrer.

Somehow I don’t see this ending well.

OK, so where is he? You gave all the winners nice plants, but that’s not the same as a handshake from Hitler.

(in German)
Hitler would rather commit hari-kari and be raped by a rabid hedgehog than acknowledge that man’s win.

(in English)
Hitler was feeling under the weather and had to leave early. Very sorry.

This is pure moral outrage!

(in German)
You hypocritical American.

(in English)
Have you ever heard the one about the pot and the kettle?

I think something got lost in translation here. Maybe I should go get JASON. He’s awesome at metaphors.

We’d better be getting back now.


STEPHAN is competing against his main German rival, DAVID KROSS, apparently the only one who’s any real threat.

(sets record)

(takes a step forward for his turn)

Foul! I didn’t say Mother, May I?

Are you for real? Never mind. I still have two tries left.

Wait a moment. You should take off here, if you want to beat my record, unless you plan on literally flying, in which case it doesn’t matter.

What a surprise:  a sympathetic German character. Even better, this actually has a basis in reality and isn’t sugarcoated by Hollywood.
(takes his turn, breaks yet another record)

(takes Stephan by the arm and does a victory lap)

Wait, there’s still two more competitors to go, oh never mind, like they have a shot at winning. Go celebrate.

So this is it, right? We go back home in a blaze of glory?

Not quite. You see, we’ve decided to make a last minute change and have you run in the RELAY RACE, instead of our two Jewish athletes, even though technically you’ve never done this event before. We’ve already taxed our hosts with all our demands, and we don’t want to add to their stress by putting them in a potentially awkward situation.

I know, the last thing we’d possibly want as Americans committed to democracy is to make a racist power-mad dictator feel uncomfortable. Well, I’m going to take a stand. I’m not racing again.

We appreciate your solidarity, but we’d personally prefer that you take part and beat the crap out of those German asshats.

Got it.

The Americans win yet again! And according to end notes, the real JESSE OWENS goes back home to more racism, but he does wind up with a wife, multiple kids and the knowledge that he’s HELPED SMASH COLOR BARRIERS and WILL LIVE FOREVER in OLYMPIC HISTORY. Although David’s real-life character gets sent to the front lines in World War II and dies.

So the message is that with overcoming racism, it’s four steps to the side for every step forward, plus being a decent human being in Nazi Germany could be hazardous to one’s health?

And also, as the saying goes: People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Got it.



2015-16 Winter Movie Lessons

1. If your plumber boyfriend leaves a job with sewage dripping in order to arrive on a date on time, it’s a sign that he’s crazy about you. (Brooklyn)

2. If you’re invited to your Italian American boyfriend’s home for dinner, you should definitely practice eating pasta without embarrassing yourself. (Brooklyn)

3. If you visit your mother and neglect to tell her that you’ve gotten married and spend your time hanging around another nice eligible bachelor, she won’t be thrilled when you finally confess your big secret under threat of being blackmailed by your spiteful ex-boss. (Brooklyn)

4. Even crusaders for the truth don’t always recognize a big story when it first comes to their notice. (Spotlight)

5. Giving an editor a copy of the Catechism in order to make him an ally will likely backfire. (Spotlight)

6. Evil may literally be next door. (Spotlight)

7. The human head can only be injured so many times before long-term damage sets in. (Concussion)

8. If your roommate is a dedicated neurologist, he may bring his work home with him – including brains in jar. (Concussion)

9. You do not want to make an enemy of the National Football League. (Concussion)

10. Sometimes no one really wants to hear “the truth.” (Concussion and Spotlight)

11. Your aging parents may actually want you to find a life of your own and spend less time worrying about them. (Sisters)

12. A house party for middle-age people needs major illegal drugs in order for everyone to loosen up. (Sisters)

13. Childhood mementos should be tided away if you plan on getting lucky in your former bedroom. (Sisters)

14. If you’re not making any kind of impression in your sadomasochistic maneuvers, it might be because your victim’s recently gotten butt implants. (Fifty Shades of Black)

15. Your boyfriend may be more wiling to tell you how he got into BDSM before he admits he’s a Republican. (Fifty Shades of Black)

16. Even aiming for the easiest seeming parody target can produce its share of misses. (Fifty Shades of Black)

17. If you are going through a gender identity crisis, and you have the world’s most understanding wife, you will find you still need to seek out another confidant. (The Danish Girl)

18. Posing as a woman to help your wife’s artistic career take off can be the key to realizing you were really meant to be female. (The Danish Girl)

19. Scarfs can be as effective as feathers (“Forrest Gump” anyone?) as major symbolism. (The Danish Girl)

20. Communists in the movie business are generally genial guys who will share their pearls of wisdom over tea after kidnapping you. (Hail, Caesar!)

21. If your date orders pasta without sauce, he may be wiling to demonstrate lasso tricks with it to entertain you. Particularly, if he’s only on the date in order to change his image. (Hail, Caesar!)

22. Sometimes when you’re not looking, some problems solve themselves. (Hail, Caesar!)

23. It’s not a good idea to fly an airplane, no matter how cool, right before your Olympic track trials. (Race)

24. If you’re a college athlete who needs to send money home regularly, get a job as a page. You won’t have to do a thing. (Race)

25. Nazi officials may refuse to shake your hand after you win a gold medal, but they will give you a nice plant as a consolation prize. (Race)

Movie Review: Race

Near the beginning of the recently-released “Race,” there’s an offhand remark that African American track and field athletes migrate toward that event because, at least at Ohio State University during the thirties, they weren’t allowed on the football team. It’s not elaborated on, though in the movie, there’s animosity between the two, but it was enough to make me scratch my head and realize that I’d learned something today.

In “Race,” Stephan James plays Jesse Owens, who was pretty much unbeatable at several track and field events, and at the beginning, is about to enroll in Ohio State to train under Jason Sudeikis, though he also has to worry about providing for his unemployed father, young daughter and the woman he hopes eventually to marry (Shanice Banten steadfastly standing by her man, at least most of the time). We see Stephan take his leave from home (his mom makes him a surprise blazer), then we see the end of a meet at the school. As Jason strides back to his office to look over applications for new recruits, a radio announcer helpfully provides his backstory, and the script wastes no time in establishing some popular movie coach commandments including:

1. Thou shalt keep a bottle of alcohol handy at all times.

2. Thou shalt be considered something of a joke among officials of the sport because of a past failure.

3. Thou shalt immediately give the main character a speech about how totally unimpressed they are with their talent.

4. Thou shalt have a major falling out with their trainee, (but the fireworks will end pretty quickly).

5. Thou shalt, despite initial antagonism, go on to become a mentor and teach valuable lessons in life, as well as in the sport of choice.

Which is to say, if you’ve seen the trailer or any Hollywood sports movie, you won’t be surprised with how “Race” unfolds. The main obstacle is the leader of an African American group asking Stephan personally not to compete in Germany because he feels it would send a powerful message in solidarity with the oppressed Jews of Nazi Germany. There is also some drama about an injury and friction between Stephan and Shanice. There’s another subplot about an American Olympic official (Jeremy Irons) engaging in a business deal with the Nazis prior to the competition. There’s tension over how much propaganda the Nazis will display at the Games, and also a German competitor (David Kross) who eventually befriends Stephan.

And then, the movie goes for the Oppression Trifecta. Not content to merely focus on racial discrimination in both the US and Germany, it adds on yet another subplot concerning Leni Riefenstahl’s (Carice van Houten) obstacles in filming the Olympics. You see, Leni just wants to make an inspiring and honest documentary, but the Nazis don’t take her seriously and they do what they can to keep her from filming Stephan’s triumphs. (Yes, folks, the Nazis weren’t merely racist, they were sexist, too!) And we learn that the White House was also racist, so it’s not just the Germans receiving a dressing down. In the end, Stephan triumphs, and proves all the doubters wrong, and the bad guys are forced to sit and marinate in their discontent. Everyone does a fair job, although most are playing stereotypes, including Barnaby Metschurat who plays Joseph Goebbels and must have been given the instruction to look as tight-lipped and constipated as possible. My audience was absorbed through the whole thing, including a group of preteens who didn’t utter a word. There was even some scattered applause at the end.

A Look Back: The Brady Bunch Movie

Sitcoms, when you’re a kid, tend to have a peculiar charm, as they don’t really resemble your actual family life or that of your friends. In a sitcom world, you may get the chance to observe strange new customs and rituals, but you always have the security of knowing that issues will be resolved in thirty minutes, certain problems will only crop up at certain times of the year, and very little can’t ultimately be resolved with a tidy moral and a laugh track, just so no one gets too bummed out.

When I was growing up, shows where the kids were raised by dads and dad figures were popular (which Freud would have a lot to say about), but before that, there was the Brady Bunch, bravely going where no TV stepfamily had gone before. In BradyWorld, pop stars manage to visit high school dances, good-looking un-related teens develop no sexual tension whatsoever living together, and there’s nothing more fun than an impromptu trip to Sears. Though of course, BradyWorld has a lot of things that don’t make a great deal of sense. Either you start realizing these things as you mature, or it’s left to someone in the house older and more jaded to point out such plot holes/conundrums as:

1. If Alice is the live-in full-time family maid, what does Mrs. Brady do all day? Surely, her hair appointment can’t take that long.

2. If Mr. Brady is such a great architect, why doesn’t he figure out a way to add on more bedrooms so six kids aren’t jammed into two rooms?

3. What happened to Tiger, the dog that was present in the early episodes?

In 1995, “The Brady Bunch Movie,” was released. Instead of placing the whole thing in the original era, the filmmakers went for the genius twist of having them living with their values intact in the nineties, untouched by such things as drugs, crime and political correctness. If their world is symbolic Astroturf, their neighbors’ is looking more than a bit grub-infested.

Gary Cole takes on the role of the head patriarch, Mike, channeling the passive-aggressive amiability he used for his “Office Space” role but without any of the smarm. Shelley Long plays his wife, perky Carol, who stands firmly behind her man, chirping “Your father’s right, kids!” even as his metaphors become hopelessly convoluted. Playing the junior bunch are Christine Taylor (a ringer down to the last hair swish) as Marcia; Christopher Daniel Barnes as Greg; Paul Sutera as Peter; Jennifer Elise Cox as Jan; Jesse Lee Soffer as Bobby; and Olivia Hack as Cindy. And Henriette Mantel plays Alice. Cameos by several of the original bunch, including Florence Henderson, Barry Williams and Alice B. Davis are also included. The theme music, home, profession of Mr. Brady, and problems of the six survive, although the Brady’s perpetual optimistic approach to life baffles and disgusts their nineties’ acquaintances. As one character puts it, “Come on! A family that’s always happy?”

The main plot has to do with the threat of the Brady’s possibly losing their house if they can’t raise an enormous sum in time. In Brady tradition, the kids decide to put on a show and compete in a song and dance competition. This will tie in with Marcia’s obsession with Davy Jones, Greg’s desire to become a professional musician, Jan’s determination to eclipse Marcia, and Peter’s first crush. The younger kids also have their own problems, as does Alice who, in this version, finds her suitor, Sam the Butcher, hopelessly unromantic. Eventually, of course, everything works out, the house is saved, and the Brady’s neighbors learn a few lessons about the importance of looking at the sunny side of things. A sequel would follow, in which the Brady’s take a vacation to Hawaii – giving them another chance for a “Something suddenly came up,” joke. And in “The Brady Bunch Movie,” Shelley does toss off an aside about Tiger’s whereabouts. (The real Tiger died offset, but that part is left out.)



Quiz: How Clichéd Is Your Underdog Movie?

In honor of “Eddie the Eagle,” and “Race,” which are due out soon and appear from the trailers and early reviews to reliably follow the Hollywood triumph of the underdog formula, here’s a practice quiz. The more b)’s and c’s) you end with, the more clichéd your movie will likely be.

1. Your main character (MC) has _ obstacles to overcome.

a) 3 or less
b) 4-6
c) 6+

2. The other characters in the movie generally respond to the MC’s ambition with_

a) Benign indifference
b) Mild derision
c) Open fire hostility

3. If applicable, the MC’s family is_

a) Indifferent
b) Baffled
c) Actively hostile

4. If applicable, the character _

a) Was raised by people other than his parents
b) Grew up in dire poverty.
c) Grew up in an orphanage/ stayed in JD.

5. How many times is the MC told straight out things like, “You’ll never be able to do this.”

a) 3 or less
b) 4-6
c) 6+

6. How many inspirational speeches does the MC give?
a) None or one
b) Two or three
c) More than three

7. The best description of the MC’s mentor/trainer is _

a) A hardass with a heart
b) Someone with substance abuse/relationship issues who is antagonistic toward the MC at first
c) Someone like b) but with a tragic secret in their past having to do with the sport

8. The mentor’s actual training will consist of:

a) Exercises and advice to sharpen the MC’s skills.
b) Incorporating Eastern philosophy or something similar to bring out the best in the MC.
c) Barking cryptic orders during a montage plus at least one inspirational speech.

9. The strategy for the MC during the Big Event is best described as _

a) Going out and giving it his all.
b) Doing something legal, but that the rival won’t expect at all.
c) Employing a strategy that could get the MC seriously injured or killed if performed incorrectly.

10. Your MC will get _ montages (count all, not just training/competing ones)

a) None or one
b) Two or three
c) More than three

* Bonus point for each montage set to songs like “Walking on Sunshine,” or “All Star.”
* Bonus point if the song does not match the era of the setting.

11. The top competitor/ main rival will respond to the MC with_

a) Indifference: It’s pointless to waste energy worrying about every possible underdog.
b) A few snide remarks.
c) Sabotage

12. If your MC deals with an unexpected snag in his plans, it will be_

a) Something non-man made like the weather
b) A death or a sickness in the family.
c) The Powers That Be attempting to keep him personally from competing by invoking a rule.

13. If c), they do this because _
a) It’s a legitimate safety issue.
b) There’s some ambiguity in the rule’s description.
c) They are elitist, sexist, etc.

14. If applicable, does the MC’s family?

a) Attend the event to cheer him on.
b) Not plan on doing so, but is guilted into it somehow.
c) Is adamantly opposed yet arrives at the last minute.

15. If applicable, is the MC supported by:

a) His community or school.
b) His nation
c) Just about everyone including the judges once they see how brilliant he is.

16. When MC does compete, the following happens _

a) He wins and all is well.
b) He wins and gets a standing ovation. (If the spectators are already standing, they then go crazy.)
c) He wins, gets a standing O and changes history forever.

* Bonus point if there’s an end card saying something like, “X is widely considered the greatest in the world…” prior to the credits.

Movie Review: Hail, Caesar!

(With all the show tunes in the movie, I left feeling poetical.)

Warning: The following may contain spoilers.

“Hail Caesar!” proudly flaunts its exclamation point,
Though it may seem way too cute
In the tradition of comedies like “Airplane!”
And “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.”

In it, Josh Brolin plays a fifties Hollywood exec,
A good Catholic by the name of Eddie Mannix.
However, by the time his day’s half through,
He’ll be ready to chug a bottle of Xanax.

You see, George Clooney, his lead actor is missing
And boy, does that make those in the film involved pissed
But as it turns out, they need not worry,
For George is squirreled away in a den of amiable Communists.

Because his latest film is Biblical in scope,
Josh meets with a rabbi, a prelate and a priest
To split hairs about the origin of Our Father
Of all his issues today, this will be the least

Meanwhile, comely mermaid, Scarlett Johansson, is irked,
As she’s in the family way
But without a ring on her finger,
She – and Josh – are not having a good day.

Alden Ehrenreich, who excels at playing cowboys,
Finds himself on the set of a period piece, suddenly feeling blue
With ultra-fussy director, Ralph Fiennes, wringing his hands
Every time he flubs a cue.

Channing Tatum, on the other hand,
Is having a gay old time
Tap dancing up a storm as a just conscripted Marine
With other young men in their prime.

But Josh finds himself pestered by twin reporters
Played amusingly by Tilda Swinton
Planning to spill the beans about a secret of George’s
In order to help her career or maybe just for fun.

However, he can’t stop to tarry too long
For he’s received a note demanding George’s ransom
From “The future,” but luckily Alden comes to his aid,
Proving he’s more than just handsome.

But before that, Alden has a date that night
Arranged with an actress with cheeks like peaches
They go to a premiere, then a hip restaurant
Where they sing “Glory of Love,” from “Beaches.”

After that, it’s time for Alden to track down George
Which luckily, he can achieve,
Prying George away from his newfound buddies, though
Is more difficult, as it makes George peeved.

One problem of Josh’s however resolves itself
When he introduces Scarlett to a shady but awed Jonah Hill
They wind up hitting it off
Though Josh is in the doghouse with his wife, Alison Pill.

He’s being tempted by a cushy job offer
Much less stressful than this one, no joking,
With all of this, he’s definitely picked
The wrong week to quit smoking

In the end, Josh manages to stave off Tilda
Then slaps into George a little more sense
Which inspires him to new heights of acting
Though he remains pretty much dense.

After all this, Josh takes a break
And heads for Confession
Where ultimately, he decides,
That he already is in the right profession.

A Look Back: The School of Rock

We’ve all known someone like “The School of Rock’s” main character, Dewey Finn (Jack Black), a paunchy, aging guy still gracelessly clinging to dreams of rock stardom and stickin’ it to The Man. At the start of the movie, Jack’s ego is so inflated, his bandmates kick him out, and he’s faced with the dilemma of coming up with a day job to pay the rent for the apartment he shares with his nebbishy roommate (Mike White) and Mike’s domineering girlfriend (Sarah Silverman), who gets the kind of thankless role where the character really does have a point about responsibility, but none of the cooler characters want to listen.

Anyway, Jack soon stumbles upon a new “gig,”: being a substitute teacher (impersonating Mike) at a private elementary school. Needless to say, he plans to do the minimum and believes that his students will happily fall in line with his suggestion to slack off. Alas, his students are a bunch of prim throwbacks to the ones in “Dead Poets’ Society,” “The Emperor’s Club,” etc. who respond to the plan to have extended recess with horror. However, they turn out to possess musical talent, which Jack promptly exploits by announcing that they are going to work on “Project Rock Band,” which will give them oodles of extra credit and impress the heck out of future college admissions officers. This kicks off a series of adventures, life lessons and high jinks, which does end in a rather unexpected fashion – but with everyone still over the moon at their chance to compete in a Battle of the Bands, in which Jack’s former bandmates are also participating. (This is one movie that really practices the message: “it’s not whether you win or you lose.”)

In movies like this, the teacher may or may not get some sort of love interest, and here, the closest thing to one is the authoritarian principal (Joan Cusack), who seems strait-laced but winds up singing to Stevie Nicks after Jack takes her out for a drink, after which they reach a truce of sorts. It’s the kids’ parents turn out to be the biggest obstacle, but in the end, they all show up to cheer on their offspring.  Overall, “The School of Rock,” avoids the mean-spiritedness in many comedies, and the closest it gets to sexual innuendo is when Jack announces in front of their dumbfounded parents that he’s touched their kids. In the G-rated sense of character building that is.