Universally, it is accepted that everybody loves 3 things: bubble wrap, birthday clowns, and nostalgia. This column aims to play upon the sentimentality inherent in every reader by paying homage to a key “retro” pop culture item.
This Week’s Throwback: School of Rock
Some movies are good for a single reason: the script is well written or it has sweet special effects or it stars Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny, etc. Other movies are like School of Rock (directed by Richard Linklater, the genius behind Boyhood) and are great not for a single reason, but for a multitude.
The greatness of this movie begins, but does not end, with the following premise: a down on his luck enthusiastic, sweaty, hairy, talented and charismatic guitar player Dewey Finn, after being kicked out of his band, is living with his substitute teacher-friend,
Ned Schneee Ned S. and Ned’s girlfriend, played by Sarah Silverman. His band members replace him with a guy who wears this shirt. Also, that guy’s name is Spider.
One day, Dewey, referred to from here on out as Jack Black, receives a call from a local school asking if Ned will substitute for a teacher who has broken a leg. Sensing a decently-compensated opportunity, Jack Black accepts the job.
Day one of substitute teaching goes horribly for both mentor and pupils alike: Jack Black tells the kids he’s hungover, which he informs them “means he was drunk yesterday,” and they spend most of the day sitting in silence until the day is over.
This all changes on day two when he hears the kids playing in music class. His eyebrows go crazy. The ensuing class period, all hell breaks loose, which is perhaps the best scene in the film.
Here are some quotes I wrote down while rewatching this scene. If you have seen the film, these should be instantly familiar.
JB: Lawrence you ever played keyboards? Any techno?
Lawrence: No I only play piano.
Oh man! What a classic comeback from “Mr. Cool” himself. Too bad it was sincere and adorable instead of malicious.
JB: C’mon c’mon c’mon now touch me babe, cant you see that I am not afraid! Lawrence is good at piano! He shall be rocking in my show!
JB: Katie what was that thing you were playing today? That big thing?
Katie: A cello.
JB: It’s the same thing only you tip it on its side and…CELLO you’ve got a bass.
Here, it seems suspicious that later in the film he would drop an amazing Yo Yo Ma reference, yet here not know what a cello is. My guess is that he was so excited that he couldn’t think of the answer, kind of like what happened when I took math tests in high school.
Billy: What’s the prize?
JB: A win will go on your permanent record, hello Harvard yo!
Summer straightens up in her chair.
Summer is kind of a suck-up, but in an endearing way. [Ed. She also later goes on to play the suck-up little sister in Nickelodeon’s Drake and Josh. I feel liker there’s some sort of connection to be made here, but I’m not sure what it is]
As the film continues, Jack Black’s energy is literally overflowing and is no doubt what makes School of Rock infinitely re-watchable. His life begins to turn around as he helps these kids learn about themselves through the only medium he knows: music. He gives them jobs and learns about compassion, notably with Tomika AKA Turkey Sub. Initially, she is pegged for a role on the security team, but eventually it is revealed that she is an amazing singer who is just self conscious about her weight. Jack Black tells her about Aretha, and then shares this nugget of wisdom.
JB: You know who else has a weight problem?
JB: Me. But when I get up there and start doing my thing, people worship me! Because I’m sexy, and chubby, man.
T: Why don’t you go on a diet?
JB: Because I like to eat! Is that such a crime?
While their learning is no doubt aversely affected by the semester they take off from doing any school work, they learn much more valuable lessons like confidence, maturity, and how to not be a huge suck-up (cough cough Summer cough).
Arguably the two most memorable moments in the film are when Jack Black performs songs from scratch, likely improvisation. While these tunes do not appear on the official soundtrack listing, they are indeed masterpieces.
The first is his “original composition.” See if you can guess what his inspiration was for the composing of this song!
The second is an excellent Schoolhouse Rock-esque learning seminar wherein Jack Black takes them through a principal-supervised lesson in song.
After a series of speed bumps that present themselves along the way, we finally get to the Battle of the Bands – the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The band decides to go with Zack’s (far superior) song for their act, light-whiz Gordon creates a background from scratch, and they take the stage, all members exhibiting lessons they’ve learned throughout the film.
It’s almost unbelievable how awesome the final song is. Like, it was the most played song on my iTunes for two or three years.
The result of the Battle of the Bands is bullshit absolute horseshit extremely unfair as No Vacancy, the band that kicked Dewey out, goes on to win, proving once and for all that life is prejudiced towards guys with exposed stomachs.
Literally no one could have played this part as well as Jack Black did. It almost seems as though he is ad-libbing throughout the entire film, and his public persona now is absolutely modeled after the character he plays in this movie. The supporting performances, which we probably were too young to acknowledge at the time, are also worth noting. Joan Cusack kills it as Principal Mullins AKA “The Man.” Many of the kids display some serious acting chops (Freddie), and some (Zack Attack, Katie) were clearly chosen for their musical abilities and not their on-screen charisma. But that’s what makes this movie so awesome!! The kids were real people, just like the kids in my 4th grade class. It’s part of what made me obsessed with Harry Potter when I was a kid. Every day until I turned 11, I woke up and thought, “Today is the day that my letter from Hogwarts comes.” School of Rock made me think, “Someday my teacher will break their leg and I will be called upon to be in the most awesome band ever.” Why else do you think I sampled the drums, trombone, saxophone, piano, bass, and guitar from 3rd to 6th grade? I had to be ready for the inevitable calling of my name in class. That moment, like my Hogwarts letter, is still in the mail I guess.
This movie reminds me of listening to my iPod Video at home after not doing any exercises in my Wordly Wise workbook. It reminds me of listening to the CD soundtrack on my “sister’s” Hello Kitty CD player while playing Backyard Baseball 2003 and Carmen Sandiego on my Windows 2000 computer. It reminds me of recreating the dope Mr. Cool/Mr. S handshake with anyone I could find who had remotely heard of the movie. And I love it.
Let’s rock, let’s rock. Today.
Oh, and want to feel old? Check out this picture of the cast all grown up.
And then watch them playing a 10-year reunion concert. It’s almost as fun as the movie.