Movie Review
School of Rock
2003
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Jack Black, Joan Cusack
D-


what the hell?" I thought, "Richard Linklater could make a decent, entertaining-enough movie out of this. I mean, the guy made Waking Life! Plus, I have a bit of a crush on Sarah Silverman. And Jack Black was sort of okay in High Fidelity and Shallow Hal, I guess. What is there to lose?'

The answer, of course, is seven dollars and two hours that I can never have back. Ever. Thanks, Dick, for stamping your name on this movie and luring in a person like myself, who would've definitely otherwise passed on seeing it. Thanks a lot.

School of Rock is one of the more nauseating experiences I've had at the movies in recent memory, and without a doubt one of the unfunniest comedies I've ever had the displeasure of sitting through. The film’s plot involves a wanna-be rock star schlub (Jack Black, of course), who pretends to be his substitute teacher roommate (Mike White, who also scripted) so that he can make what seems sure to be some quick, easy money subbing at a prestigious prep school. Then, obviously not being an actual teacher, he decides to mold his prodigious young pupils into a Real Rock Band in order to win a battle of the bands contest. (Trust me: It’s every bit as ridiculous as it sounds.) I’m sure you already knew as much if you seen the film’s trailer, which is essentially School of Rock condensed down to a merciful few minutes.

Think: Big Daddy/Kindergarten Cop, with Black in place of Sandler/Arnold. This movie is so painstakingly PG-13 that the word 'ass' seems intended to provoke taboo gasps from the sixth-graders that I would've assumed to be its target audience if a) it wasn't by the same director as Waking Life (probably the least kid-friendly 'cartoon' ever made) and b) written by White (who I'm not an especially huge fan of, but has, in the past, at least scripted more decidedly adult-oriented films) and, most remarkably, c) hadn't received inexplicably positive reviews across the board (even from a few critics whose opinions I very much respect). I really, truly don't get it. This movie is about as formulaic and juvenile as it gets; for lack of a better word, it's STUPID, pure and simple, and predictable enough that any kid around the age of those that Black is "teaching" in the film could see each and every plot turn coming long before it arrives. School of Rock also reeks of contrived cutesiness of the most precious order, making for the sort of supposed feel-good movie that actually makes we want to puke in my popcorn bag.

Jack Black is one of the most gratingly obnoxious actors working in comedy today, if for no other reason than the man is seriously, painfully unfunny. His character here, which (not to his credit) he plays even more uncannily than his overbearing record-store geek in High Fidelity, is basically that most contemptible of devoted rockists: the dreaded classic rock (as in AC/DC and Rush--not the Beatles and the Stones) obsessive, in whose vocabulary the key word 'cheesy' apparently does not exist. His song that he performs for the kids is reminiscent of "Stonehenge" from Spinal Tap (and definitely not in a good way) crossbred with Meatloaf at his most grossly pompous. Joan Cusack, playing the prep school’s principal, simply goes through the motions as the typical stern disciplinarian on the outside hiding repressed feelings on the inside who, to quote Kurt Cobain (arguably the most oddly name-dropped rock personality in the film) hasn’t had a date forever. White’s small part in The Good Girl, which he also wrote, was one of that film’s bright spots; here, however, he’s pretty affectless as Black’s nerdy, whipped roommate. As for Silverman, her role as White’s girlfriend (i.e., the one manning the whip) is unfortunately too tiny and underdeveloped for her to be able to really do anything memorable with it.

Worst of all, Black's character's brief course in the History of Rock (or is it Rawk?) is so utterly debased and obviously watered-down that it makes Almost Famous seem down-right edgy by comparison; another necessity, I assume, of receiving that all-important PG-13 rating. I just hope that rock-oblivious kids don't exit this movie believing "Iron Man" and "Smoke on the Water" to be the essence of rock n' roll.


By: Josh Timmermann
Published on: 2003-10-09
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