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Preppy kids rock in latest film

Katie Wagner | Tuesday, October 14, 2003

School of Rock is a slightly above-average comedy. It is entertaining for people of all ages, but leading actor Jack Black’s overly dramatic acting weakens the film. The child actors and the music are this movie’s high points.

The movie begins with struggling heavy metal guitarist Dewey Finn (Black) getting kicked out of his band due to his on-stage antics. This shatters his lifelong dream of winning the battle of the bands. To make things worse, Finn’s roommate’s overbearing girlfriend demands that the jobless and broke Finn pay his long overdue rent. Finn almost gives up on his musical aspirations until he discovers a ploy to both pay his rent and continue playing rock.

He takes a role as a long-term substitute at a prestigious private elementary school, impersonating his friend and roommate Ned Schneebly (Mike White). Despite his students’ obsession with academics and a lack of rock’n roll background, Finn is determined to convince them that rock is the most important thing in the world. Thanks to his passion, sense of humor and musical entertaining ability, Black transforms these children into a group of rock musicians. The students initially challenge Finn’s lack of schooling, but eventually they all appreciate and share his intense love of rock music.

The diverse personalities of each fifth grade student make this movie seem very similar to a true classroom of nine-year-olds. Each child’s uniqueness of character brings a lot of humor to the film. Many of the students have incredible musical talent, which makes the movie very entertaining.

Another strong point of the movie was the humor brought by the uptight private school principal’s (Joan Cusak) surprising obsession with Stevie Nix. Black’s acting was one of this film’s weaknesses. He was funny, but not as funny as he was in Shallow Hal.

Also on the downside, the speed with which Finn was able to change the opinions of the children about him was not realistic. Finn was too goofy to be taken seriously. His passion for rock was so over the top that he could have been diagnosed as insane even though he was being sincere.

However, that no child or other character accused him of being ridiculous for his passion almost makes his intensely emotional behavior seem commendable.

The overall message of this film – that you should always follow your dreams – was satisfying. The underlying message – there are other measures of success beyond earning good grades in school – was convincing and thought-provoking.

The one hour and 48 minutes of this PG-13 film ran very quickly. The movie left little room for yawning. The school scenes were interesting and very animated, thanks to the child actors. The rock’n roll shows pictured were quite colorful and exciting.

This film is certainly worth seeing, especially if you are a fan of classic heavy metal music, as long as you don’t mind hearing a few cheesy lines and seeing a comedic performance by Jack Black that is less than his best.

Contact Katie Wagner at kwagner@nd.edu