The School of Rock (2003)
Directed by Richard Linklater
Written by Mike White

I always wondered what it would take for my generation (unfortunately, forever to be branded "Generation X") to start operating from the heart instead of the oh-so-observational brain. All the ironic comedy, amoral degeneracy, and subversive philosophizing was fine for a time, but it was becoming increasingly disturbing that no one my age seemed to want to contribute anything constructive or beautiful to the world.

Turns out, having kids is what mellows us out, and thank the fucking Lord for that. Without breeding, we'd have to suffer endless retreads of Slacker, El Mariachi, Clerks, and Reservoir Dogs til we all retired to an assisted-living facility where high schoolers would come visit us and perform songs from the good old days to rekindle our failing memories with the comforting sounds of Weezer.

As Robert Rodriguez has found his soul with the Spy Kids movies, and Kevin Smith learns to live outside of his comic book collection with Jersey Girl, Richard Linklater has tempered his hipster sensibilities with real emotion in The School of Rock. I breathe a huge sigh of relief. We may turn out not to be total wastoids after all.

Linklater gave us Slacker and its anime-equivalent Waking Life, both thoughtful and unique films, plus Dazed and Confused and several others that I hated. With The School of Rock, he takes a one-joke premise (Jack Black as a loser hard-rock musician getting a gig teaching prep school kids how to "rock") and spins it into something really heartfelt and beautiful.

Surprisingly, it's not Jack Black who makes it happen. Like Will Ferrell, Jack's a very funny guy, capable of totally shameless self-mutilation in the name of belly laughter, but as with a lot of wacky fellows, the schtick gets tedious after prolonged exposure. School of Rock constantly threatens to collapse under the strain of Black's self-conscious hamminess, but wisely keeps its focus on the kids, who form the real emotonal core of the movie.

The kids are uniformly amazing, alternately precocious and genuinely vulnerable, and what's more, they really play their own instruments in the band Black forms with them. What might have been a pretty fake musical experience (a la Freaky Friday) is given heft by actually showing these kids become a band, from wrong notes, stiff vocals, and rushed tempi to solid and surprising, yet not unbelievable, competence. It's ultiimately a very pleasing hybrid of The Commitments and The Bad News Bears.

Black gets many hilarious moments (perhaps a few too many, but what can I say, the guy does crack me up), and Joan Cusack is funny as the tightened-up school principal who used to be "fun." Sarah Silverman is beautifully hateable as the bitchy, controlling girlfriend of Jack's roommate.

The story gets a bit creepy when it's discovered that Black has no teaching credentials, and you suddenly realize that his forming a band with a bunch of junior high prep-school kids isn't far off from him filming an epic porno with the same crew … but Linklater's touch is delicate and things build toward a delightful and inspiring conclusion.

I guess we now await Quentin Tarantino's fatherhood, so that the bloodthirsty carnage of Kill Bill can give way to something more along the lines of The Karate Kid. You have to admit that would be pretty excellent.

Review by La Fée