The School of Rock
3 out of 5 stars
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A fantastic collision of talent makes this low-concept comedy far more entertaining than expected--a gifted director (see Dazed and Confused and Tape), incisive writer (see Chuck & Buck and The Good Girl) and two consummate scene-stealers (see High Fidelity and Working Girl). Dewey (Black) is a rock star wannabe, hogging the spotlight to the point where his bandmates finally throw him out ... even though he put the band together in the first place. He shares a flat with his formerly rocking best friend Ned (White), now working as a substitute teacher, and Ned's control-freak girlfriend (Silverman). Then in a moment of desperation, Dewey passes himself off as Ned to get a job as a sub at a posh private school. How hard can teaching 10-year-olds be? When endless recess gets boring he discovers that these high-achieving kids have serious musical abilities, so he sets about weaning them from classical music and teaching them how to rock. Of course, he's preparing them for the upcoming Battle of the Bands, where their main competition will be Dewey's former mates.

For a silly kids' comedy, this is exceptionally well-made. White's clever script is both sharply funny and extremely telling, plotted predictably yet brilliantly resisting or redefining cliches along the way. A lot of the credit must go to Black, who was clearly allowed to run wild as a man who refuses to grow up. While he sometimes drifts into John Belushi-in-Animal House mayhem, he also keeps the character grounded enough so we can identify with him in his efforts to rebel against the constrictions of 'the man'. And this is the area where Cusack shines as the school's nervous principal;she's perhaps the best actress on earth at playing uptight women who bury their wild-child deep within! Credit to her and the filmmakers that they refuse to make her the cartoon character she could so easily have become. Linklater has never made a film even remotely this commercial, but he always approaches his characters this organically, creating people who seem so real it's almost scary. And in this case it's also quite good fun.

cert PG some language and innuendo 25.Nov.03

dir Richard Linklater
scr Mike White
with Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White, Sarah Silverman, Miranda Cosgrove, Joey Gaydos Jr, Kevin Clark, Robert Tsai, Maryam Hassan, Rebecca Brown, Caitlin Hale, Aleisha Allen
release US 3.Oct.03; UK 6.Feb.04
03/US 1h48

Let's start a rock band! Black confers with backup singers Hale and Allen

black cusack white

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send your review to Shadows... School of Rock Bill C, net: "I can't get enough. Jack Black and those kids are incredible together. The song at the end was great. One question: are the kids in the School of Rock band considering playing together again and what are they doing today?" (9.Mar.04)
2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall