By Richie Angel
“I pledge allegiance to the band of Mr. Schneebly, and will not fight him for creative control.”
An inspirational speech to the aforementioned band evokes AC/DC: “For those about to rock, I salute you.” But by this point in Richard Linklater’s music-infused comedy, it should be clear to viewers that the film is equally a tribute to all who have ever rocked before—and a guide for those who wish to do so.
School of Rock stars Jack Black as Dewey Finn, a washed-up rocker who won’t admit defeat. When Dewey is kicked out of the band he founded, he assumes his best friend’s identity to pose as a substitute teacher for a quick buck. But when Dewey overhears his prep school pupils in music class, he envisions another road to rock n’ roll glory and a way to break his stifled students out of their shells.
In a Golden Globe-nominated performance, Black combines his chaotic passion with the sparky innocence of child performers who actually know what they’re doing – so much so that Miranda Cosgrove had to undergo a “bad singing” lesson in order to flop her character’s vocal audition scene. Every band member plays their own way, lending authenticity to a film already brimming with charm. Even when the actors do fake it—e.g., Jack Black’s solo and Joey Gaydos Jr.’s classical plucking—they know enough to make it look convincing. Even Robert Tsai, mirroring his character Lawrence’s insecurity, approached director Richard Linklater to confess he didn’t feel like he belonged in the movie. That sincerity translates into an impressive ensemble flick that is equal parts amusing, tightly-paced, and—fittingly for a film about a phony substitute teacher—educational.
In between Black’s classroom antics, he diagrams the “History of Rock” from blues and country to heavy metal, doo wop, British invasion, and psychedelic rock. A careful study of that chalkboard alone is worth the price of tuition—I mean, admission. The film also embraces the nuts and bolts of band formation, chronicling what happens behind the curtain with roadies, techies, groupies, and more as the auxiliary bandmates design the wardrobes, animate the lights show, and, of course, name the band. Most importantly, the School of Rock is inclusive and unpretentious as it doles out rock n’ roll homework, treating Blondie and Aretha with the same validity as Zeppelin and Peart. In this movie, every piece is essential and anyone can rock, even if they’re overweight or “not cool enough.” After all, as the characters sing, “rock got no reason, rock got no rhyme.”
At the end of the day, this movie’s philosophy is that it’s not about the fame, the accolades, the money, or the after-party—it’s about the music. And that’s why every musician should watch School of Rock.