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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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Jack Black’s new movie The School of Rock is as funny as it looks. If you like Black’s frenetic comedy, you must go see this movie as soon as possible.

The movie revolves around Dewey Finn (Jack Black) and his unsuccessful rock lifestyle. He shares an apartment with a former rock band buddy, with emphasis on the word sharing. He hasn’t paid his share of the rent for months and the roommate—well, the roommate’s girlfriend—isn’t standing for it any longer.

When a call comes in for his roommate to substitute teach at a tony prep school for $650 a week, Dewey decides that this is how he’s going to pay off his debt to his friend. Posing as his roommate, he gets the job, spends the first day of class hung over, and dismisses the children to a half-day long recess. When the second hand indicates that it’s three o’clock, he bolts out the door and runs to his decrepit van.

On the second day, he hears the kids in their music class and realizes that they’re not half bad. He immediately concocts a ruse to get them to form a rock band so they can participate in the city’s Battle of the Bands—and possibly garner him $20,000. The children are assigned to positions in the band and the remaining students become security, lighting, roadies, groupies, and a manager. The pretense is that there’s going to be an interscholastic competition in the coming semester and he wants them to get a head start. The kids are skeptical but eventually give in to the unusual nature of the assignment. The movie mostly consists of practicing under the watchful eye of the principal (Joan Cusack) and constructing the elaborate tissue of lies to cover up the “project.”

Jack Black is in his element and the part seemed designed especially for him. He is so over-the-top that it seems completely realistic. You can believe that he’s a rock-and-roll loser, a substitute teacher, and a caring, sensitive person. Black emotes so well that you can spot the very moment when he realizes that he can turn this substitute teacher gig into a new band. He reminds me a lot of Will Ferrell when he was a SNL cast member (not in his recent movie forays which have been unrepresentative of his talents)—as subtle as he wants to be, in other words.

I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s utterly typical of this sort of movie. The parents, as you might expect, get wind of the situation. They’re outraged in one scene and in awe of their child’s talents the next. One dad, who earlier in the movie had chided his son for practicing rock and roll, smiled smugly at his son’s performance. I don’t buy it for one second, being married to a teacher and aware indirectly of the nature of parents who send their kids to private schools, but it’s exactly how I figured the movie would play out.

This is not a movie with a larger message—unless you believe Black when he says that one rock concert can change the world. It’s good, rollicking fun. Takeaways might include letting your kids find what interests them and incorporating real-world experiences into education. The credits at both ends were the most innovative I have ever seen—well, after Ferris Bueller’s Day Off of course.