School of Rock

OK, it hasn’t been the best year for movies. But it’s still worth noting that

the two best films of the year thus far have been PG-13 romps aimed at children

and their parents. After the box-office phenomenon that is Pirates

of the Caribbean, we now have School

of Rock, the fabulous new film from Richard Linklater and Jack Black.

Upon reflection, it’s not exactly surprising that filmmakers sometimes create

their best material when they’re working under the constraints of the children’s

genre. Certainly Robert Rodriguez, whose latest

film is a complete disaster, has never come close to the triumph of Spy

Kids. Or compare E.T.

to The Color Purple:

’nuff said.

I’ve had a hell of a time trying to persuade my friends to go see Pirates:

they have no interest, they say, in seeing a Disney film – one based

on a theme-park ride, no less – which is mainly famous for starring

a scenery-chewing Johnny Depp. And I can see what they mean, when they put it

like that. But it’s their loss, since the film is one of the greatest action-adventure

movies since the Indiana Jones franchise reached the end of its natural life.

Somehow I have a feeling that pushing people to see School of Rock

will be less difficult. For one thing, it has the Linklater name attached, although

weirdly he’s absent from the branding of the film – maybe Paramount reckons

that the Linklater fanbase will simply come out through word of mouth alone.

Then, of course, there’s Jack Black, someone who’s retained a large quantity

of street cred despite selling out about as much as it’s possible to do.

In any case, the thirtysomethings most definitely turned out for this film.

I saw it on a Sunday night without thinking twice about whether I might be able

to get a ticket, but the theatre was people-sitting-in-the-aisles sold out.

And not a kid in sight.

The opening credits alone are a masterpiece of comic filmmaking: Jack Black

on stage, channelling every rock god from Jimmy Page to Mick Jagger, eventually

swan-diving, stripped to the waist, into the outstretched arms of his imaginary

fanbase. Not the kind of fanbase you ideally want to crowd-surf on, it must

be said.

Amazingly, things rarely flag from there on in. The ridiculous plot is just

sturdy enough to carry us through: our stout hero blags himself a job at a posh

school, where he sets up a crash course in Sticking it to The Man for his coddled

10-year-old charges. The kids, of course, carry the day, and by the end everybody’s

happily riffing together as the long list of music featured in the film scrolls

its way up the left-hand side of the screen.

Just as Depp carries Pirates, Black is this film. He’s working

with some excellent actors, from Joan Cusack to the extremely talented children

in the band, but it’s his genuine and infectious energy which keeps the audience

rapt – and in stitches. He’s the overgrown adolescent we all flatter ourselves

to think we are still in touch with inside ourselves, and he manages to paper

over crater-sized plot holes through sheer force of personality alone.

Whether he’s quoting Whitney Houston in a desperate attempt to construct an

educational philosophy, or improvising a "Math is good" song in order

to explain away the electric guitar in the corner of the classroom, Black has

a natural’s comic timing. But this film couldn’t work with any old comedian:

Black gives it genuine rock credibility as well. True fact: while Linklater

couldn’t get Led Zeppelin to let him use their eponymous song in Dazed and

Confused, Black managed to persusade them to allow "Immigrant Song"

to be used in School of Rock.

I urge you to grab some friends, have a couple of drinks, head down to your

local multiplex, and whoop it up in this movie. You will have a fantastically

good time, and come out with a renewed appreciation for both Black and Linklater.

Linklater actually starred in Spy Kids: he knows at first hand that

what might look at first glance like selling out can in fact be the catalyst

for innovative, first-rate filmmaking. Here’s hoping that more people follow

his lead. Failing that, we might at least have a revival

of air guitar.

This entry was posted in Film. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to School of Rock

  1. Dan says:

    Shoot, I saw the movie with my 2 kids, 11 and 13 years and found it derivative, predictable and silly. Plus, as good as Jack Black is, there’s only so much of his schtick you can stand………

    For the record, my older child agreed with me, but my younger one seemed to like it…. so there you go.

  2. David M says:

    A completely spontaneous shout of exultation escaped my lips at the scene with Black ripping the gold star/demerits chart from the wall and declaring “No grades in my classroom!” This was in a near-empty theatre, and I was a little embarassed at my outburst, but that’s the kind of energy the movie has.

Comments are closed.