SCHOOL OF ROCK stars Jack Black as down and out rock star Dewey Finn, who gets fired from his own band and now faces a mountain of debts and depression. To make matters worse, his unassertive roommate, Ned (played by Mike White), a substitute teacher to whom he owes thousands of dollars, has a controlling girlfriend who keeps insisting that the deadbeat Dewey find another home.
One afternoon Dewey takes a phone call for Ned from a posh preparatory school that needs a substitute teacher for a few weeks. Dewey accepts the job and poses as Ned as he begins an adventure as a fifth grade substitute teacher. Hoping to do a lot of sleeping and loafing, he quickly finds that he’s at an uptight private school run by a hyper uptight headmistress (played by Joan Cusak) who is very concerned about rules and decorum, of which Dewey has neither.
After a couple days of giving his students mostly P.E. all day and little work, Dewey peeks in on his class while they’re practicing their instruments in orchestra. His eyes light up as he formulates a plan. Hoping to win the prize money in a local “Battle of the Bands” contest, he forms a rock band with the students in the class. And the youth are, indeed, talented, as he quickly finds. Zach is a guitar prodigy, Freddy beats a mean drum, Katie sizzles on bass, and Lawrence tickles the ivories on piano. The others are assigned band manager, back-up singers, set and costume designers, lighting technicians, and roadies.
Dewey must train his new rock band in secret so that the principal, staff and parents know nothing of his plan. He smuggles in electric guitars, drums, and keyboards and teaches the children rock history, rock appreciation and rock technique. Instead of Math, History, and Language Arts assignments, which they should be learning to cope in life, he sends them home at night with CDs of rock bands like Led Zepplin, Yes, AC/DC, Metallica, and the like. He performs his own rock songs for the children, complete with hilarious gyrations and screechy rock screams. He tells them that rock music is simply expressing oneself by venting pent-up anger toward “the man.” When the students ask who “the man” is, he tells them that “the man” is the people who hurt the ozone and kill endangered whales and do all the bad, mean things in this world. The children agree that certainly “the man” is worthy of being railed against.
After a week or so, Dewey’s attitude and hijinx start having a powerful effect on the uptight students as they start loosening up and trying his outrageous rock moves. Many of them start coming out of their shells and expressing talent and individuality they didn’t know they had. One of them tells the principal, “You da man!” She thanks the student, oblivious to the insult.
Dewey’s plan seems to be working pretty well until some unforeseen wrenches are thrown into the mix. The contest organizers refuse to put the child band on the roster, the principal and several parents are closing in on the truth, and Ned and his angry girlfriend have just found Dewey’s first check from the school, made out to Ned, of course. If Dewey can’t keep up the ruse for another week, all hopes of rockin’ and winnin’ will be lost. It will take more than one washed up rocker to make it all work out, but he doubts whether he’ll really find himself with a team at the crucial moment.
SCHOOL OF ROCK is a fun movie that leaves audiences smiling. Much of rock music is birthed in rebellion, but the tone of this story is light, silly, and often tongue-in-cheek. The movie’s preparatory school is truly the perfect portrait of an uptight, confining, legalistic, intimidating, elitist, “rules over relationship” environment. Audiences are just willing the silly new teacher to win in his antics. It also helps that the teacher has no meanness to his rock n’ roll rebellion. As a matter of fact, he is sensitive and kind to the students, drawing them each into life and focusing on their talents and speaking a future to them. Regrettably, he doesn’t seem to understand that they are going to need math, history and literature when they grow up more than following their hormones and learning about rock
There are about 14 mild to moderate obscenities and about four light profanities. Also, some very skuzzy bands of yesteryear are lauded by the protagonist, but he does change in the end. Whereas he begins his adventure based on a grand deception, he ends by saying, “It is not cool to lie.” He also prays with the children before their performance, layering hands as in a football huddle, but he says, “Oh, God of rock, give us the power. . . .” In the end, he demonstrates his commitment to the parents, the school, and especially the children he’s truly come to adore and influence.
Jack Black is a fun actor with his own band in real life, and he’s truly got some talent and energy. Joan Cusack comes close to stealing the show, however, as she plays the uptight, rules-oriented principal with quivering insecurities underneath it all. Jack actually takes her on a date or two, and, thanks to his influence, she learns a few things about lightening up and stopping the people pleasing. The children in the movie are adorable and talented and do a fine job in SCHOOL OF ROCK.
Overall, the movie gets a guarded “really cute.” Because of the language elements and the fact that many of the roots of rock n’ roll were birthed in rebellion, however, it would be worth a discussion of such matters with middle- and high schoolers before making SCHOOL OF ROCK a family outing. The movie would not be interesting or acceptable for younger children.
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SUMMARY: In SCHOOL OF ROCK, down and out rock star Dewey Finn decides to make some money by pretending to be a substitute teacher at an exclusive preparatory school, but he soon decides that the fourth “r” will be “rock band.” Though marred by some obscenities and the whole theme of loving rock music, SCHOOL OF ROCK is portrayed with a light, fun tone extolling life over legalism.
(H, B, PC, E, LL, V, M) Light humanist worldview with love of rock n' roll and all its corresponding rebellious, skuzzy groups countered by some moral, biblical themes espousing relationship over rules, life over legalism and elitism, and rebuke of lying at end, but scattered moments of politically correct, environmentalist language; about 14 obscenities and four "Oh, my God's"; violence includes the smashing of guitars and falling off rock stages; and, miscellaneous immorality includes deception, which is rebuked at end.