Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Here's my review of last night's premiere, Jack Black's "The School Of Rock". I really loved this film. Elbert, if you can read this, let me know if it's good enough as a review for publication or something. :)

However, from now on, I will edit my reviews to all contain two distinct ratings: a "fun" rating, meaning, the level of how much I enjoyed the film, and a "critical" rating, meaning, I put to work all the film classes I had, and give it an honest, slightly detached evaluation. Any movie reviews or basic reviews I have, for that matter, will now contain these two different ratings, and expect me to add this change in to each of my past reviews over time. Somebody just tell me how to do the html code to hyperlink to a specific spot on my LJ (Not just a page, but a PART of the page.) or weblog, so I can just make an easy access archive of my film reviews...

In any case...

Spoilers Ahead!!!

.:Movie Review: The School Of Rock:.

The School Of Rock
More stereotypes and cliche's that actually work than you can shake a guitar at

Jack Black scored it big with this sleeper hit of a film, and like most comedians, his fans and detractors are about as polarized as you can imagine. People either love Jack Black so much and believe he was the spark plug in this film, or people simply hated Jack Black so much that they think he condemned to doom this film even before the opening credits rolled, probably because they see him as some underwhelming yet overweight Jim Carrey. Whatever your opinion of him may be, the fact of the matter is, this movie sold, and it worked.

The plot is extremely been-there, done-that: Dewey Finn is a rocker wannabe who gets kicked out of a band he himself formed because his onstage antics don't really help get the band over. Worse for him, his best friend, Ned Schneebly, who himself used to be a rocker, is threatening to throw him out of their apartment if he doesn't pay the rent, under pressure from his shrew of a girlfriend, who made Ned pretty much as straight-edged as a ruler (Except a ruler like George Bush or possibly FPJ, but I digress.).

Dewey needed to find a job, and fast. To his great luck (Or so he believed at the time.), Ned, who happens to be a substitute teacher, was asked to substitute at a particular posh private school, and Dewey decided to impersonate Ned to take the job. Having no teaching experience, much less competence, he simply had no idea what to do with these kids until he discovered that a good chunk of them can play instruments. Realizing his chances of getting back into the Battle of the Bands and perhaps even upending his own band, he decides to teach these kids how to play rock music, and bases his curriculum around it.

The grade school kids were all hooked: they were led to believe that it was a secret project, and they never even knew that "Mr. S" was actually Dewey Finn. All throughout, their rather uptight principal was extremely apprehensive of what seems to be a rather unusual approach that this substitute teacher actually has. Behind her back, however, the kids have formed a complete band, from the band members, to the roadies, to the security, to the band manager, and down to the groupies and the fashion director.

In the end, do they win the Battle of the Bands? Not really, but not that it mattered. What mattered was that these kids, for once, discovered how it was to just live on the edge, and still have good, clean fun. Of course, this was to the detriment of the poor principal, who didn't really hope to be this uptight, as it's her head at stake once the parents discovered Dewey's deception during parent-teacher night itself.

Shades of GTO, for the most part, although in Eikichi's case, he really did have lectures. In spite of that, films like these, no matter how you might say that they're "bubblegum and fluff", do have their appeal. Black's comedic timing is a hit or miss deal, as it's not necessarily an acquired taste, but it works for everyone. Joan Cusack as the uptight principal with a hidden anarchic streak is downright endearing, as she was the closest thing the film had to a villain, yet she still had a connection onscreen with Jack Black.

The supporting cast of Ned and the girlfriend did their roles pretty well, but I would have to say that those two were the least appealing characters to me in the film. Jack Black's former band was amusing for the most part, though, especially his replacement, who was grinding like a macho dancer while playing the guitar...

The kids were your typical stereotypes, although there were quite a lot of African-American kids. It was pretty obvious that there was going to be a token Asian kid, though: we've seen so many black people that they stopped being token minority requirements already. In spite of it being a movie geared to kids, these kids weren't the least bit annoying. In fact, they were downright lovable.

Summer was cute as the grade-conscious but well-meaning kid (And off the record: is quite a looker already at ten years old. And she's not even Chinese...); Zach captured the feel of a young kid who has what it takes to be a real rocker and is well on his way there; the drummer kid had that rebel attitude who was quick to expose his teacher's inconsistencies between telling him to "break the rules" one moment and then telling him to "follow my orders" the next; Mr. Cool, was amazing on the piano, and really had that clueless but wide-eyed wonder that evoked a lot of emotion; the bassist kid was the most underwhelming in the group, yet she still had her appeal.

The back-up singers were very nice kids who could really sing, and the chubby one in particular was very good at evoking some empathy; the so-called groupies were great at what they did; the security detail kids were funny at what they did, especially with the CCTV stuff they did to check if the principal was nearby; the roadies were fun, and the kid handling the computer reminded me of some other computer genius I know; the gay kid was downright funny. I haven't seen that stereotype in Hollywood in all the films I watched, so his doing fashion and all that was such a refreshing sight for me, as he had this natural air of beeyatchiness around him that really helped his character along.

Overall, this movie really had great comedy gold. I especially loved how some of the kids developed their characters, especially Summer, who went from following the rules for the grade all the time, to doing things for their own sake. Of course the writer never saw it the way I see it, but a bit of Kantian rationality really does my heart good. I liked the way they side-stepped the principal for most of the film, and this classic line from Jack Black...

I know I'm not a real teacher, but your kids are amazing. If they were my kids, I'd be proud of all of them. In fact, I'm proud of all of them. Every single one of these kids touched me. And I know, I touched all of them, too.

That line was just so wrong on so many levels...

In any case, the strongest thing going for the movie is its ability to make you suspend your disbelief. Some people would probably wonder how it was possible for Dewey Finn to get away with the things he did, but apparently, the movie was set up in such a way that it simply made sense. Of course, having Dewey's former band win the contest was to make the film more believable, but their performance was nowhere near half as good as the kids' number, by any standards. Still, it was all believable how he pulled it off, and how the parents were prevented from lynch mobbing Dewey for taking their kids to BotB after having been exposed as a fraud.

The comedy was well-written and witty, and any rock fanboy would love all the references found in the film. I myself, and I'm far from a true blue rock fanboy, enjoyed most of the references.

Makes me feel a lot better about being a teacher in the future...

Marcelle's "Enjoyment" Evaluation: A+
Marcelle's "Critical" Evaluation: C+

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