A review of “School of Rock” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: PG-13 for mild language and situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

 

 

The enigmatic Jack Black rocks the house in this family comedy that crackles with rock & roll spirit.

Unemployed Dewey Finn (Black) services society by rocking.  His dismal garage band is a legend in Dewey’s own mind, perpetually poised on the brink of a big break.  But almost doesn’t pay the rent, and Dewey needs some cash, pronto. 

Miscommunication saves the day when Dewey answers a call for roommate Ned Schneebly (screenwriter Mike White), pleading for an emergency substitute teacher for Horace Mann Preparatory School.  Desperate Dewey smells greenbacks, and poses as Ned to land the job.

Standing sentry in front of a classroom of precocious fifth-graders is a challenge far out of Dewey’s league.  Bored with the notion of standard curriculum geometry and geography, “Mr. S” brainstorms his way to a brilliant plan.  How about forming a band with the musically talented pre-teens and entering them in Battle of the Bands, a local music contest that nets the winner a $20,000 check?

Dewey has his work cut out for him.  The kids’ musical influences rum the gamut from Christina Aguilera to Puff Daddy.  The ABCs according to Dewey cite such legendary educators as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and AC-DC. Goodbye bubble-gum pop, hello moshpit crash courses in Rock History and Rock Appreciation and Theory.

Determined to see his plan to fruition, Dewey is forced to keep the gig on the down-low, juggling a suspicious, uptight headmaster (a hilarious Joan Cusack), relentlessly overachieving parents and Ned’s bitchy girlfriend Patty (Sarah Silverman), who’s looking for the perfect opportunity to blow the whistle on the slacking rocker.

“Rock” has its heart in the right place, aiming straight for the heartstrings a la “The Mighty Ducks” meets “The Full Monty” (sans the Monty). The footing gets a little rocky when the plot grapples for the ideal aw-shucks finale, but that slight misstep merely lingers in the shadows of funnyman Black’s enormous talent.

Black was born for this role – crisp, improvisational and brilliantly zany. His rangy slacker dialogue and rubber-faced antics, not to mention killer guitar riffs, smooth musical moves (the actor fronts rock band Tenacious D in his spare time) and infectious enthusiasm pave the way for a rollicking good time at the movies.