School of Rock

PG¦ Blu-ray, DVD

The curve ball. A term to denote something unexpected in the grand scheme of things.

American director Richard Linklater has built a career on having a distinct style of film-making as well as recurring themes, such as coming of age, in his films such as 1990’s Slacker, 1993’s Dazed and Confused and 2001’s Waking Life.

And then, out of nowhere in 2003, came his curve ball, the family musical comedy that is School of Rock starring the enigmatic Jack Black.

So now, twenty years on, its re-release is a refresher course on just how to rock out.

boom reviews School of Rock
So who knows a fun song about the black death?

There’s only one thing that Dewey Finn (Black) has going on in his life currently, and that’s being the guitarist in the band No Vacancy. Without it he has nothing. Which is made even more evident by the fact of him getting kicked out of said band.

This is not good news, for himself or for his roommates, who haven’t seen sign of rent from him in some time.

Then one day he gets a call, it’s for his roommate Ned (Mike White), and it’s an offer for some work at a school, as he’s a substitute teacher. Instead of taking a message, Dewey decides to pretend he is Ned, and goes along with being a sub teacher.

So he turns up at Horace Green prep school, and finds himself in front of a class of ten-year-olds, all looking at him expectantly.

Completely out of his depth, and only knowing one thing – music – he decides to give them a lesson they’ll never forget, and teach them how to rock.

boom reviews School of Rock
Who shouted out Milli Vanilli? Hands up now!

Although it’s a little older now, Linklater’s film is still very sweet, charming and adorable, which are all very un-Linklater. But despite that, or perhaps, to be honest, because of it, it still remains easily his most successful film he’s directed, making over $130 million at the box office. To put that in context, his other most successful film is 2014’s Boyhood with $57 million, with many of his other films making between $1-10 million. So as curve balls go, it’s a pretty lucrative one.

It also has an interesting pedigree, with a script by Mike White, who went on to create and write the critically acclaimed TV series The White Lotus, an edgy piece of television a million miles away from this.

Jack Black’s performance is still a joyful experience, as is his interaction with all the children involved. And if you want to feel really old, all of whom are now in their thirties. And for many of them, it was their only gig in acting, with only a couple going on to continue the career.

In terms of Linklater’s filmography, it’s certainly an anomaly, and ironically, an incredibly successful one at that. But respect where it’s due, he could have churned out either sequels or poor quality clones, just to make a buck, but chose to continue making interesting and creative films that just didn’t light up the box office in quite the same way.

That said, it could have been truly Disneyfied, especially with such a young cast, but Linklater’s film has a lot more integrity than that, which is mostly down to Black, whose love for the rock genre is more than evident, but also his lack of a patronising tone to the children involved, which really comes across.

Part of Linklater’s oeuvre then, School of Rock is a curious addition, but it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, making it hugely accessible, even to this day. It may be surprisingly commercial for the director, but just like a no 1 pop anthem you can’t get out of your head, it’s still a great hit.

we give this three out of five