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When hell-raising guitarist Dewey Finn (Jack Black) is fired by his rock band, his dream of winning the local Battle of the Bands is dashed. Apart from rock and roll being his only love, he was counting on getting the winner’s cheque to pay his rent. And to top things off, his roommate Ned (Mike White) is being pressured by pushy girlfriend Patty (Sarah Silverman) to kick him out of the apartment. When Dewey takes a phone call intended for Ned offering a job as a substitute teacher at the prestigious Horace Green Elementary School, he accepts, pretending to be Ned. While the very prim and proper Principal Mullins (Joan Cusack) keeps a firm eye on him, Dewey decides to mould his class of 10 year olds into a high-voltage rock band.

Review by Louise Keller:
With its energetic, highly contagious and zany fun pitched at a thousand decibels, School of Rock combines hefty laughs with a truly sweet heart. Director Richard Linklater cleverly keeps a lid on Jack Black’s hilarious antics, as he goes from zero to unlikely hero in this likeable story about a no-hoper who finds his rock ‘n roll dream with a bunch of 10 year olds. There’s something about Black that is most appealing: he looks just like a big kid who has dropped his ice-cream, or a playful puppy let off the leash in the rain. His lack of self-consciousness and willingness to make a complete fool of himself has a compelling ring of truth about it. 

He is funny alright, and screenwriter Mike White (yes, the irony of his surname cannot go unmentioned) has come up with an imaginative, wacky script that showcases both Black and White. Black’s Dewey Finn is the sort of guy who dreams of the ‘Almost Famous’ lifestyle, living and breathing rock ‘n roll. Trapped in the guise of a teacher and not knowing what to do, when he spots musical talent, he is inspired. These regular kids hardly fit the mould of the tattooed, dropout rock musicians that he knows, and a treat is in store for us as Dewey coaches them how to add ‘attitude’ to their playing. 

Looking like an animal on heat (or in acute pain), Dewey demonstrates how to let the body and soul ‘do the rocking’, with body language and facial expressions that will have you howling with laugher. With instructions like ‘open your eyes wide and look as though something’s wrong’, the guidebook to ‘cool’ is rewritten. Slap it, shoot it and kaboot it is how to shake hands Dewey-style, and what begins as a disastrous escapade to make ends meet, becomes a rambunctious adventure. History lessons become retrospectives on Zeppelin and Hendrix, while Maths comprises comical ditties on the guitar. There are plenty of laughs as Dewey instinctively finds each kid’s forte – be it as a backup singer, lead guitarist, security, stylist, or band manager. The nice thing about it is that everyone gets something out of it – the kids become confident and motivated, and we just have a ball. 

With the same kind of zesty appeal as Freaky Friday, Linklater achieves a wonderful balance of off-the-wall comedy coupled with genuine oomph as the School of Rock achieves its dreams at the climactic Battle of the Bands finale. Joan Cusack is amusing as the stuffy, wound-up principal dying to be unleashed, and White makes a welcome contrast as Dewey’s roommate. The real scene-stealers are the kids, who are marvellous. It doesn’t hurt that they are all really musically talented as well, and Linklater directs them perfectly. Sure to appeal to all ages, if you need a laugh and are looking for a fix, enrol in School of Rock: it really rocks.

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CAST: Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White, Sarah Silverman, Joey Gaydos, Maryam Hassan, Kevin Alexander Clark, Rebecca Brown, Robert Tsai, Caitlin Hale, Aleisha Allen, Miranda Cosgrove, Brian Falduto, Zachary Infante, James Hosey

PRODUCER: Scott Rudin

DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater

SCRIPT: Mike White


EDITOR: Sandra Adair

MUSIC: Craig Wedren


RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 20, 2003

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