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.

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