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School Of Rock Review: Hits All The Right Notes

Jack Black points at a blackboard with a stick that points to the word "rock" in the film School of Rock

School of Rock is a hilarious comedy that places Jack Black right in his comfort zone with a charming narrative about the power of self-belief.

Director: Richard Linklater
Genre: Musical, Comedy
Run Time: 109′
US Release: October 3, 2003
UK Release: TBA
Where to watch: on digital & VOD

Although Richard Linklater is best known for his more philosophical, meditative dramas like Before Sunrise or Boyhood, his cult classic School of Rock proves that he’s also incredibly talented when it comes to comedy. The story follows an out-of-work rock enthusiast named Dewey Finn (Jack Black) who takes his flatmate’s job as a substitute teacher in a local high school.

But instead of teaching the students what they’re supposed to learn, Dewey takes it upon himself to teach them what he feels they need to learn – by secretly forming an amateur rock band and educating them about music. However, what makes School of Rock stand out from other comedies in the genre is Linklater’s personal touch and emotional writing that gives each of these children fully developed journeys of self-acceptance and confidence.

The concept for School of Rock might be simple, but the execution is anything but. The way Linklater balances all these characters that easily could’ve been reduced to childish stereotypes and forges them into real characters with real-life problems that children can relate to is brilliant, and helps enhance this story into something much more moving that you wouldn’t expect from the surface. It deals with issues such as anxiety, inferiority, and bullying while remaining lighthearted and providing plenty of jokes that make every single scene stand out. The film is a real testament to the importance of teachers, and while Dewey might not actually be a teacher, he adopts that role in a fascinating way that allows School of Rock to really delve into the complexities of the student/teacher dynamic.

All that being said, School of Rock simply wouldn’t work without such a dedicated and naturally funny actor like Jack Black at the helm. While films such as Nacho Libre and Tropic Thunder allow him to really let loose with his slapstick style, School of Rock sees the actor getting a little more restrained and dramatic with his performance, which really works in his favour. He’s got the perfect comedic timing that’s necessary to make all the jokes land, but he’s also got that softer vulnerability that he displays in movies like The Holiday to push forward the film’s message about accepting our flaws and making them part of ourselves.

Jack Black holds an electric guitar and teaches children standing around him in the film School of Rock
School of Rock (Paramount Pictures)

Another of School of Rock’s biggest strengths lies in its soundtrack, which uses Dewey’s obsession with classic rock as an excuse to include some timeless rock ballads in the film’s critical moments. The songs are all important to the story, as they track the kids’ growing love for music and artistic expression, but it’s also just hugely entertaining to see such lovable characters rocking out to The Doors and Led Zeppelin. Linklater has always been hugely talented when it comes to creating atmosphere in his films, whether that’s the dreamlike romanticism of Before Sunset or the nostalgic rebellion of Dazed and Confused, and here it’s no different: rock music plays a hugely important role in the story and Linklater really leans into that.

It’s the obvious conflict between the conformity of high school life and the complete freedom of music that makes School of Rock such an inspiring narrative and gives the characters so much personality, elevating the story beyond a simple family comedy. It’s surprising that Linklater and Black haven’t worked together more frequently, given how clearly they both understand each other’s styles and intentions with this project. Black delivers an excellent performance that draws every emotion possible from the audience, rendering this one of the funniest and most purely entertaining entries in both of their filmographies. It might not be as thought-provoking or memorable as the rest of Linklater’s work, but for a comedy, it does everything that an audience could possibly hope for.

Get it on Apple TV

School of Rock is now available to watch on digital and on demand. Read our review of Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!

School of Rock “Pledge of Allegiance” Clip (Paramount Pictures)

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