AN EMPIRE OF WORDS

School of Rock (2003)

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If you know me on a personal level, you’ll understand just how much I enjoy School of Rock. It’s one of my personal favourites and I could watch it for a very long time, without getting bored.

Jack Black seems to be a marmite character and very divisive even before he appears on screen. I know this from personal experience and the mention of Jack Black instantly switching people off. If anything School of Rock emphasises what people don’t like about Jack Black, and that is hyperactive screen presence.

In the opening scene, we see Jack Black as Dewey Finn playing on stage with his band No Vacancy, before he abruptly stops the performance with an audacious stage dive after ‘shredding’ on guitar. Its clear Jack Black was given some creative space throughout this film as he can indulge his musical side and engage with his hyperactivity.

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Mike White wrote School of Rock a year after Orange County, which also had Jack Black starring in, but in a much smaller role. White wrote School of Rock wanting a lead role for Jack Black and it seems as White actively chose to engage Jack Black’s musical side as Dewey Finn’s backstory is that he is down-on-his-luck intent on hitting the big time, with his music.

Dewey goes as far as to state that No Vacancy will become “an footnote on his epic ass”, clearly showing his intentions to become a self proclaimed rockstar. Under Richard Linklater’s direction, Jack Black brings the story of Dewey Finn to life, whilst excellently selling that his is struggling as he sleeps on the floor of his friends apartment.

The only questionable side of School of Rock is the story of how Dewey Finn easily becomes a substitute teacher at Horace Green Prep. His flatmate Ned Schneebly (Mike White – yes, the same one that wrote the film) and Patty (Sarah Silverman) demand his share of the rent, otherwise they’ll kick him out. The resentment between Dewey and Patty immediately lifts off the screen, as Ned slowly cowers away from the verbal battle that ensues in front of him. Because of his allegiance to Ned, he promises that he will make rent.

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Whilst trying to sell a guitar, he receives a call from Horace Green Prep looking for Ned Schneebly to substitute at the school. (Wait, here comes the questionable part to the story) Dewey has a great idea and decides to impersonate Ned so he can make rent. This is pretty much the set-up for School of Rock and that happens within the first half hour.

What White and Linklater managed to do was make Dewey genuinely seem at rock bottom, which is also helped by Jack Black. Within that first half hour, Black uses his comedic whit to begin verbal jousts with everyone that disagrees with him and this continues as he begins to ‘teach’ at Horace Green. (When I say teach, I mean lean back on his chair and sleeps, whilst the class has recess)

Linklater cleverly glosses over the act of Dewey becoming the teacher, as he leaves a few questions about how easily he can do it and quickly rolls into the music that becomes infectious throughout School of Rock. Dewey overhears his class take a music class, and decides to enter the Battle of the Bands with the band to try and hit the big time.

School of Rock does stand at a perfect length of just a touch over an hour and a half, but it could easily be longer and not have any enjoyment levels altered with such a change. What the latter hour is filled with is Dewey teaching the children the origins of Rock and fine-tuning their band, before the big show. Although there is questionable glossed over part of the story, the film becomes rather sweet as the children find a way to start expressing themselves with the help of Mr S. (As Dewey seemingly can’t spell Schneebly, the children call him Mr. S)

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If anything School of Rock becomes insanely quotable amongst the likes of Anchorman, Airplane! and Zoolander. For me, Jack Black is insanely energetic throughout the film and it works every step of the way, from his verbal jousts with people, to inspiring the children to express themselves such as Freddy (Kevin Clark), Zach (Joey Gaydos) and to some extent Summer. (Miranda Cosgrove)

Everything about School of Rock clicks for me. The characters are inventive and work, the comedic elements of Jack Black and his verbal jousts continue to provide laughs. And as I mentioned, I don’t think I can tire of this film just yet, especially as it remains immensely quotable and laugh inducing tied together with it’s fantastic use of the soundtrack.

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Author: Nathan Harris

Currently studying Film & Television studies and Media Writing at Derby University. Hopefully wanting to become a film critic/journalist.

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