School of Rock
with Jack Black, Mike White, Joan Cusack
Directed by Richard Linklater
Written by Mike White
(Paramount Home Video)
by Chad Van Wagner
As undeniably amusing as director Richard Linklatter’s Dazed and Confused was, and as hysterical as Jack Black can often be, I have to admit I didn’t have any hopes for School of Rock. It looked like an easy paycheck, the kind of thing hipsters in Hollywood did to get their managers off their backs and pick up a little easy dough. They’d show up, do what they were told, then buzz off to their pet projects.
Chalk another one up to the pitfalls of prejudice, because School of Rock actually works. Now, this is not unqualified praise, since the film does indeed play it by the numbers, and it is the kind of “rebellious” entertainment you can show your Mom. But it’s remarkable for being utterly predictable, yet snarkily amusing. And, truth be told, there are some minor surprises in the film’s script.
In case you’re wondering, Jack Black plays a fat, overzealous loser, who scams his way into a snooty prep school as a substitute teacher, because… well, who really cares what his motivation is? From that point on, the template kicks in, and while the script doesn’t entirely drop down to autopilot, there are no major revelations to be had. But just because something is cliché doesn’t mean it’s automatically worthless, and Black and director Linklatter do infuse this trite story with some energy and (dare I say it?) warmth. It doesn’t hurt that the script seems to be tailor made for Black: It’s impossible to imagine anyone else in his role.
Not going to change the world, but the human organism needs mindless fun to go along with its cultural brain food, and School of Rock is a great example of just that mindlessness. A minor, but pleasant, surprise.