In this loving ode to rock and music, the always funny Jack Black stars as slacker and freeloader Dewey Finn, a passionate rock buff who is kicked out of his band after antics and attempts to hog the spotlight. Pressured by his roommate to make some money for his share of the rent, he’s threatened to get a job or be kicked out. He then poses as a substitute teacher to make the money and stumbles onto an elementary class of shy students with zero confidence and after witnessing their musical talents decides to form a band for the battle of the bands.
I missed this during it’s successful run in the box-office so I anxiously awaited a chance to check this wicked film out. Black is perfect in this role because he’s basically like a big kid anyway, so his chemistry is natural with them here. The kids in the film are not real actors, they’re musicians who were recruited for the film, but, thank goodness, they’re all very good here. If you’re wondering if these kids really rock like this, then you’re right in your assumption. They’re all great musicians, especially Joey Gaydos Jr. who is just an incredible guitarist. Films with kids, involving kids, featuring kids, or revolving around–(well you know) are rarely ever good. I’ve had the misfortune of watching a lot of good films with obnoxious kids. They’re pretty adorable here, and I didn’t completely hate them. They’re focused on a lot here, but thankfully not enough where, unlike films such as the remake of “Cheaper by the Dozen”, the writers try to smother the audience with them constantly putting them on screen for no real reason as in they’re trying to get the audience all warm with: “Look, see? They’re so cute!”
This is really just a practice for Black’s shticks, physical comedy, and well delivered one-liners. Thankfully, he has a lot to work with here. The concept for the music, involving the music is based around classic rock, so there’s one point for the concept. I’m biased, so what? So the constant classic rock skits here I just ate with a spoon gladly. Then there’s a man trying to teach kids about classic rock… I wish I had such a class as this when I was in school. Rock lover ranting aside, this is such a nice film to take your kids to see. If you were worried about Black’s material being adult-oriented before, you have no need to fear. Black is very very funny here, and has a good rapport with the children, and he’s especially funny when he’s around adults because he looks like he doesn’t belong and he’s hilarious trying to keep up with them. Black, a self-confessed rock buff is really believable here as the passionate rock wannabe, the primary character which was written for him especially by director Richard Linklater.
Linklater confessed to writing the role especially for Black, and though his primary film credits are devoted to excellent philosophical indies, and my favorite rock film of all time “Dazed and Confused”, makes his voice heard here with the usual great direction and really gives a warm tone to such a hilarious movie. He really does show mainstream America how to play the game when it comes to directing a film and accentuates the intended rock mood. Now, obviously, there is a really kick ass soundtrack here, which is a given when you have a film revolving around classic rock. There’s some truly good music here from AC/DC, Black Sabbath, and Zeppelin, and we to hear a lot of it. There is a lot of fun stuff involving the children who are actually very adorable including Tomika (Maryam Hassan) the vocalist afraid to sing because of her weight, the rebellious Freddy (Real life drummer Kevin Alexander Clark), the drummer for the group, Katie (Rebecca Brown), the quiet bassist, Zack the guitar player, and Summer (Miranda Cosgrove) the very cute band manager who plays by the rules, and is very funny.
The writer approaches these kids with a charming attitude and treats them as people not as tools for comedy, and he doesn’t make fun of them nor do they demean them at any point. There is a boy in the cast who is a bit feminine and I liked how they never really touched on that issue. Then, there’s, of course Dewey who is likable despite being irresponsible in the opening because he connects with the kids and unties them. He not only gives them musical skills, but he gives them confidence within the music to express themselves and they do, not to mention Black is just very funny here. There are a lot zingers and one-liners and laugh out loud moments including when he’s trying to get the kids to insult him, and when he’s singing math to the kids and gets an equation wrong. The sequence where he’s gathering the kids in the band is very cool, teaching the young Zack the guitar finger wave perfected by Angus Young (Look him up!), and then there’s the climax which was just insane, excellent and basically realistic in its resolution; the musical number from “School of Rock” is really kick ass, I can not stress it enough.
This story has been done to death, and to death, and over and over. Concept for script: Unkempt unorthodox teacher/slacker/rebel stumbles onto class of juveniles/ underdogs and instills confidence within them and unites them in some form or another. It’s been done and I knew everything that would happen in this awfully routine script and the ending, while different was also pretty predictable. I wish they’d taken a different approach instead of becoming very cliché by the numbers throughout the story. Also, there’s not enough emphasis on Cusack’s character here. She’s often mainly just a plot device to pick up Black’s slack in the comedy department rather than a real character to root for or care about. She appears sporadically throughout the story and we never feel as if we’ve gotten a real touch on her personality.
Black is exhausting here; just utterly exhausting with a lot of over the top improvising and physical shticks that I just had no patience for, many times. If he’d been more low-key than maybe he wouldn’t have reminded me of Robin Williams times three. And let’s not forget the story which is very far-fetched requiring a stretch of the imagination. He manages to get into the school as a substitute but there’s no interview, no asking for credentials by him, seemingly no security in and around the school, though Dewey’s friend Ned claims to be a substitute, no one has ever seen his face so it’s easy to take Ned’s place, when Dewey is caught he’s not arrested for endangering the lives of children, and isn’t there usually an age limit for the battle of the bands? Logic has to mainly be impaired here. Despite the familiar and godly overdone plot, this is just such a wicked rocking movie , and, being the rock fan I am, I couldn’t help but love this hilarious, sweet, and kick ass kids comedy with such an excellent score, kids I actually liked, and an ending that rocked hard. This is infotainment, folks; not only will your kids love this movie, but, hey, they’ll learn what real music is.