School Of Rock (2003)
Main cast: Jack Black (Dewey Finn), Mike White (Ned Schneebly), Joan Cusack (Rosalie Mullins), Sarah Silverman (Patty Di Marco), Joey Gaydos Jr (Zack), and Miranda Cosgrove (Summer Hathaway)
Director: Richard Linklater

This movie makes me feel older than ancient and geriartic combined. I could still remember the days when Rolling Stones and AC/DC tapes are considered "cool", when rock music means an endless pornucopian orgy of drugs and sex through which the listener lives vicariously. And now, watching School Of Rock and realizing that prepubescent kids singing rock music is considered family fun comedy, a part of me wants to die on the spot right now. It's such a pity. The music has never seen a wild and hedonistic anarchy like the rock and roll era ever since, and probably never will, and School Of Rock is like a final middle finger salute to the legacy of that wonderfully disgraceful era of hedonism.

That's not to say that this movie is bad. It's watchable. But it's also a movie that lifts the most cloying and saccharine clichés from musical teacher movies like Sister Act 2 or Dangerous Minds and add rock music for garnishing. To add insult to old rock-and-rollers everywhere, the hero is an out-of-shape loser looking just like Jack Black. Dewey Finn is the loser that thinks he's Rocker when he's actually more like a dumb rock. Fired by his bandmates and facing eviction from his apartment because he can't make rent, he has no choice but to grab an opportunity to get some money when he answers a call for a temp teaching job on behalf of his roommate, the responsible Ned, and gets mistaken for Ned. He ends up teaching a class of elementary students and next thing you know, he's getting them ready to rock and roll in a concert that you know is going to be the finale of the movie. The other teachers disapprove, the principal Rosalie Mullins isn't sure, but give her a dose of Fleetwood Mac and she's putty in Dewey's hands.

Richard Linklater is more known for pretentious quasi-artistic movies that only snobbish arthouse movie fans can love (Waking Life, anybody?). He's as "artistic" as Ethan Hawke. School Of Rock is as clichéd a mainstream movie as Linklater's more artistic-wannabe movies were clichéd by-the-number "See, I too can be important" movies. Perhaps the fault also lies in the hands of the scriptwriter Mike White, who creates cardboard stereotypes instead of characters and make them sprout corny lines. Maybe Linklater just likes directing clichéd movies, I don't know.

But while the movie is derivative and feels more like a TV movie of the week, the children manage to put on a charming performance that don't grate on my nerves like child actors tend to do. Joan Cusack is reliably amusing. Jack Black, however, is a tougher sell. He's a decent comedic sidekick in movies, but when he's given a starring role, like in this movie and Shallow Hal, he comes off as overly exaggerated in his actions and speech. Some people may find him amusing, and I do, for the first forty minutes or so. But one hour and forty eight minutes of Jack Black is a little too much for me to take. There are a few charming moments in this unmemorable movie, but those are mostly due to the charisma of Joan Cusack and the kiddie cast. It is also nice to hear some of the rock tunes in this movie soundtrack, even if watching these once shocking songs being performed by kiddies to standing ovation makes me feel an irrational urge to cry.

Rating: 70

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