Friday, 23 October 2009

I have been touched by your kids... and I'm pretty sure that I've touched them.

No 188 - The School of Rock
Director - Richard Linklater

Thank you Freeview. You have served me well, providing films as I was trapped in a hotel in Sunderland. Today's film is an unusual entry from introspective indie darling Richard Linklater, a gleefully anarchistic comedy starring the gleefully anarchic Jack Black.

If you look at the synopses of the film, it is not particularly intelligent. A man fakes his way into a stuffy private school where he teaches the children how to have fun and loosen up. Through the power of RAWK. Even in the execution of the film there are some massive plot holes. The main (and most important) one also being the simplest. How the hell has somebody managed to set up and rehearse a rock band within a school. Schools are notoriously quiet places (especially a cliche private school like the one in this film) and rock bands are not quiet in the least.
Somebody would have noticed. Early on.

However, the skill of the film is that you don't care. You overlook the plot holes. You overlook the obvious flaws and you enjoy the ride of the film. This is down to a number of things, but I'm going to begin with Jack Black.

If there is one role that Jack Black plays well it is the arrogant rock buffoon. You can argue that the majority of his roles have played to that side but this is the first film to truly embrace it. I saw Tenacious D when they performed their first gig in the UK and Dewey Finn is a slightly scaled down version of Rock Behemoth JB. I think this is a good thing, because for all his vulgar hilarity, Tenacious D might be slightly too much. Whereas Dewey feels like a real person. An idiot. But a real person.
This is helped by the fact that School of Rock was written specifically for Jack Black and therefore celebrates his rock persona and his wild eyed delivery. This is easily Jack Black's best performance.

What is truly impressive is that despite this being Black's finest hour, he doesn't steal the show with excessive mugging. It is an impressive task to outshine Jack Black, doubly so when he is on such top form, and yet it is not done by just on person but by an entire class of them.

What I love about this film is the characterisation. Whilst some of the adults do fall by the wayside (Sarah Silverman is just a bossy cow, with no further dimensions), and it doesn't matter what Joan Cusack does, all I can hear is Jessie. The children are superb and have fantastic characters which just shine. Characters like Summer or Fred may not really develop but they are really rounded (Fred's rebellious nature and Summer's controlling naggyness). The real star of the film is the mighty Zack, played excellently by Joey Gaydos Jr. His journey from being beaten down by his family through to finding his Independence and his awesomeness - and he is an excellent guitarist.
The film really celebrates the journey of the children. It follows them from the beginning where they are prim and proper and under the thumb of their parents and their headmistress, the fabulous Joan Cusack. Throughout this film she is played as the much misunderstood authoritarian of the piece, however throughout it all I could hear was Jessie. Which is the problem with voice casting.
Gradually though, Jack Black helps the children find their individuality, their confidence, their sense of fun.

The most important part of the film is the final gig. Here you can see how fabulously the children work and play together. Following their journey, the final scene is a real goose bump raising heart warming moment of pure joy. I like to think that each child designed their own outfits and helped to create the real sense of unity and strength which shines from the film.
You can watch it in isolation and it is still really fun.

But it isn't as fun as seeing it in context...

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