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"School of Rock"

Directed by Richard Linklater.
Written by Mike White.
Starring Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White and Sarah Silverman.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  10/21/03 


I didn't see a single trailer for the new Jack Black comedy "School of Rock"…but that didn't stop me from having a whoop-ass time at the movies.

This one just pimp-slapped me out of the blue, it was such a surprise.  Black stars as Dewey, guitar playing loser and organizer of a down-and-out rock band that seems to be going nowhere.  When Dewey's roommate Ned (film co-writer Mike White) demands that Dewey finally pay up on the $2200 in rent that he is in debt on, Dewey has to find a way to make some cash or risk getting booted from his apartment.  Dewey gets his shot when he assumes the alias of Ned--who "temps" as a substitute teacher--and shows up at a prestigious private school to teach a class of fourth graders in subjects that Dewey has no interest in…like, oh, math, history, science, or anything else kids really might NEED to learn.  Instead, he tries to turn the kids into a band in three weeks to prep them for a rock band competition for $20,000 in prize money.

Like my friend Brian "Schmoove" Prenoveau said after we came out of the theater, even though "School of Rock" might have a very straightforward, predictable plotline, the execution is near-perfect and Black is perfect for the role of Dewey.  The combination of these two elements makes for a film that is flat-out hilarious for so much of the 108-minute running time that I left with laugh marks on my cheeks following the matinee.  Black does his best Chris Farley imitation throughout the picture, and one cannot imagine the amount of energy he expends doing his scenes because he tosses his body all over the frame every time he appears in it.  Director Richard Linklater ("Dazed and Confused") throws us at least three scenes where he uses the long master cut of a shot featuring Black, so there he is for three or four minutes yapping away on something, whether it's singing a song, or leading the kids through a lesson, or waxing poetic on the storied history of rock & roll.

But, Black doesn't do all of the heavy lifting--the kids that populate Dewey's classroom are fantastic.  There are so many great kid moments in "School of Rock" that I'm not going to tell you about a single one of them, so you can go out and see this flick and experience the glory for yourself.  Schmoove and I were dying during many of the segments, though, especially ones featuring the kids as they figure out their roles within the band, and Dewey coming up with nicknames for all of the kids in the class.  So good.

Supporting help by the adults in "School of Rock" is probably the only semi-weak spot of the whole shebang; Joan Cusack, White and Sarah Silverman don't add much to the end product, but that was okay since they take up so little of the film's running time.  I don't even really listen to much classic rock & roll but that didn't hurt the experience; I would imagine bits like Dewey mapping out a family tree on the history of rock would appeal greatly to those that have some knowledge of punk and prog rock, if you like that sort of thing.

All in all, good times, and a real surprise for me because I generally don't love Black in his movie parts.  But, this one is a keeper and in a crowded audience, I'll bet that folks will be laughing their mutha-grabbin' asses off. 

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09