Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The School of Rock

2003, US, directed by Richard Linklater

The School of Rock was conceived as a vehicle for Jack Black, and it works well, channelling his energies to highly entertaining effect. He plays Dewey Finn, a musician perpetually on the verge of abject failure, whose desperate need for rent money impels him to pose as his roommate when the phone rings with a job offer at a prestigious local academy (realism is not high on the agenda). The children in the academy are suffering under the weight of rules, parental expectations, and classical music classes, and the free-spirited Dewey is convinced that they can release their true selves through rock and roll, and sets up a secretive class project, 'Rock Band'. The storyline is patently absurb, of course, but Black's exuberant performance and the excellent ensemble of youthful actors (all talented musicians) drives the film; the often very witty script helps, too. Director Richard Linklater must take much credit for reining in Black's wildest tendencies (ensuring that Dewey Finn stays on the right side of obnoxious), and for coaxing a string of likeable turns from the younger generation, who had little to no experience before the camera. Part of me can't help thinking it's a shame to see one more independent cinematic mind co-opted by the studio system, but at least The School of Rock has more vigor, and considerably more charm, than most Hollywood pap.

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