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School of Rock (PG)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by Jack Black and Richard Linklater; Commentary by the kids from School of Rock; Lessons Learned In The School of Rock. Jack Black's Pitch to Led Zepplin; School of Rock music video; Kids video diary; MTV diary: Jack Black; Web site archive; Theatrical trailer.

EVER since his scene-stealing performance alongside John Cusack, in High Fidelity, Jack Black has struggled to realise the comic potential he showed as that obnoxious record store co-worker.

Disappointing turns in the so-so Orange County, and the diabolical Shallow Hal, did little to enhance his reputation, or justify star-billing, while the performer, himself, appeared to be channelling most of his creative energy into his music, in the form of his band, Tenacious D.

With School of Rock, however, Black has been handed a pitch-perfect showcase for his talents, starring as a down and out rock musician, who poses as a substitute teacher at an uptight private school, in order to pay the rent, only to discover the band he has long been looking for.

The ensuing comedy is an absolute blast, and looks destined to become one of the funniest movies of the year.

As self-obsessed rocker, Dewey Finn, Black provides a comic tour-de-force, hogging the limelight at every turn and rising to the challenges presented in co-star, Mike White’s script.

Whether it’s handing his pupils Led Zeppelin CDs for their homework, or explaining the meaning of a hangover, the actor commands the attention, trading well on his larger than life persona, and handling his character’s predictable transformation with considerable aplomb.

His chemistry with the kids, who also manage to stay the right side of pretentious, is also well-observed, so that the scenes between the two always remain funny, instead of cheesy, and his interplay with the likes of Joan Cusack’s repressed headteacher is also well-realised.

Director, Richard Linklater, deserves maximum credit for keeping things light and frothy throughout, for while the path of the movie is never really in question, proceedings never become laboured, or overly sentimental, which could have ruined things somewhat.

Not a frame feels wasted, as even the opening and closing credits have been tailored to bring out the best in the movie, making it an obvious labour of love for all concerned.

Of the children, Joey Gaydos Jr., as guitar prodigy, Zack, and Robert Tsai, as Gordon, strike the biggest chords, delivering their lines with relish, and working well off Black’s showier moments. But all of the younger performers register in some way, and their sense of fun translates well to the audience.

Musically, the film even hits the right notes, with a well-realised soundtrack providing the likes of The Who, Eric Clapton, Zeppelin and Bowie with welcome outings, as well as Black himself.

This is a blast, from start to finish - a genuinely feelgood affair, which is as uplifting a film as you could hope to find in any year, and which finally provides Black with the star-vehicle his talent so obviously deserves. In a word, it rocks!

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