School of Rock has an odd pedigree. It’s a kids film about an inspirational teacher, yet it’s directed by Richard Linklater, of Slacker and Dazed And Confused fame. It’s written by Mike White, who wrote the dark comedies The Good Girl and Chuck And Buck and it stars Jack Black, scene-stealing comedian from High Fidelity. Think Sister Act 2‘s older stoner brother.
Black stars as Dewey, a rock-star wannabe who’s been dumped by his band and is struggling for cash. Constantly leeching from his roommate, a substitute teacher, he decides to pose as him in order to get a job at a posh school. His unconventional teaching techniques make him popular with the children yet not with the principal. When he overhears them in their music class Dewey decides to make a new rock band with his new class of pupils.
It’s not a plot which hasn’t been done to death before. But, like last year’s Elf, School of Rock seems to have found the way forward for kid’s comedies. Using a respected comedian in the lead role, making the film accessible to both children and adults. Jack Black delivers a typically energetic, unique performance in a film which is likely to cement his star status. He’s ably supported by a restrained Joan Cusack who would still be funny even if she was reading the phone book.
The kids are surprisingly not annoying. They are realistically played by a cast of newcomers as normal kids, not the precocious youngsters we’re used to in this kind of film. They all also seem surprisingly good at playing their respective instruments. The plot conventions are predictable but then you do have to remember this is a film aimed also at the younger audience.
Its warm reception by US critics and sleeper status at the box office are much deserved. This is a consistently funny, feel-good comedy with a great performance from Jack Black and it will appeal to a wide cross-section of the audience. One of the more satisfying kids films of recent times, it shows to filmmakers that making a film for children doesn’t have to be as embarrassing as it once was.