Oct. 23, 2003 – When a semi-washed-up rock guitarist becomes a bogus school teacher to a bunch of straight-arrow private school kids, it's grounds for a movie; it's grounds for a "School of Rock."
The movie has gotten its share of left-handed compliments. It's described as a haphazard "Saturday Night Live" sketch blown up to 90 minutes by Andrew O'Hehir at Salon.com. O'Hehir says it "probably isn't a good movie and might not even be a movie at all in some technical, Platonic sense … it's borderline offensive stereotypes in almost every scene."
But none of that matters a whit, O'Hehir says, because the movie "rocks" the kids' world, "and, improbably, ours."
Dewey Finn (Jack Black) answers his roommate's phone when a call comes in for a substitute teaching job. Finn has just lost his job in a rock band and needs money. The kids and the rocker warm slowly to one another, but things heat up when Finn decides to make a rock band out of them. He wants to groom one particular 9-year-old guitar prodigy to play in a "battle of the bands" against his old group.
Well, if the plot seems hokey and predictable, perhaps that what makes the movie so good — overcoming the obvious. School Principal Rosalie Mullins (Joan Cusak) adds to the fun in her uptight role, which she approaches with a certain humor.
"Just as songs need minor chords, movies need tension," Mark Caro says in the Chicago Tribune. This is supplied early on when you want to like Finn, but his attitude stinks. Until he discovers some of the kids playing instruments in orchestra class. And that is his inspiration. If there is one subject he knows, it's rock and roll.
Caro says you can't fault director Richard Linklater for "following a formula when the execution is so sweet."
The movie, he says, is the cinematic equivalent of a near-perfect 3-minute pop song. It makes you laugh, smile and tap your toes, and when it's finished, you're ready to hit repeat.
"School of Rock" runs one hour and 48 minutes and is rated PG-13 for some rude humor and drug references.
It is playing at Sunny Isle Theaters.
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