Thursday, 5 February 2009

The School of Rock

Lowdown: A Jack Black festival.
Watching The School of Rock can be a problem if, like me, you are no big fan of Jack Black. It’s a Jack Black overdose. You wake up in the middle of the night afterwards in terror with Black’s image engraved in your mind. You need some sort of therapeutic treat to rid yourself of the Black plague.
Not that The School of Rock, originally released in 2003, is a bad film; it’s just that it is built around Black’s persona, and let’s face it: there is not much of a persona behind Black.
The film itself acknowledges this undeniable fact. Black portrays a lacklustre band’s lacklustre guitarist, totally out of touch with his band, band’s audience, and life in general. His old friend in music, now turned “conventional”, cannot cover for Black anymore, forcing Black to find a way to make a living and pay for his rent; so Black naturally impersonates his friend in order to acquire the position of a substitute teacher at this prestigious private school for kids with very rich and demanding parents.
Given that Black is as far from being a teacher as politicians are from being honest, he stirs the time available to him with his class towards the only venue he can think of: he makes his class into a rock band. Black’s starts with his rock schooling quite selfishly, as a way for him to be able to manifest his dreams; quickly enough, though, this is turned into a class wide enterprise. Black’s quest is aided by several factors: First, there the coincidence of the kids being very musically talented to begin with (albeit classically trained); second, there’s the kids’ parentally imposed repression that brings these kids into a boiling point seeking a way to let the steam loose; and third, there’s him getting a very unrealistic level of autonomy with the kids, essentially having them entirely at his disposal for entire school weeks (very credible indeed).
There are hiccups on the way, but indeed credibility is not high on The School of Rock’s agenda so these are dealt with quickly enough. Despite the threatening school headmistress, complaints about noise from other teachers, and parents getting more and more suspicious, the music keeps on playing to a very happy ending (and if you complain that I have just spoilt the film for you, please have your sanity checked).
Overall, The School of Rock is aimed primarily at kids. Otherwise you would have a hard time explaining the sheer impossibility of the film’s premises, its predictability, and its "only in Hollywood" sweeter than sweet filling/feeling. That, and it saying that what Black did is good for the kids.
Then again, it’s probably kids alone that can successfully withstand a Jack Black all film long.
Best scene: Black takes the school principle, Joan Cusack, out to a pub. Cusack the principle seems as if she never had a day of fun in her life, exposing Cusack the actress who (unlike Black) has a genuine talent for comedy.
Worst scene: While preaching the rock mantra to his flock, Black puts minor bands (say, The Ramones) alongside the big guns (say, Led Zeppelin). Come on, I know this is a film that should never be taken seriously, but why contaminate kids’ minds with such bullshit?
Overall: Me, I like my entertainment to be more life like and not that light. And I don’t like Jack Black. 2.5 out of 5 stars.


Mike said...

The Ramones are a MINOR BAND? Not to be to overly blunt, but are you fucking kidding? The first four Ramones records are all classic, and there's a lot of pretty decent ones after that. They influenced too many bands to name, but I'll just throw the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Guns N Roses, U2, The Misfits, Black Flag, Green Day, etc, onto the pile. The Ramones are easily one of the most important bands in rock-n-roll history. As good as they are (and let's face it......there's a LOT of filler in Led Zeppelin's catalog...), all Zeppelin influenced were a bunch of lame hair bands. In terms of hard rock/metal influence, the tops on the list are The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest, The Stooges, The Ramones, Motorhead, and AC/DC.

Agree? Disagree? Let's discuss. Moshe, what do you mostly listen to anyway?

Moshe Reuveni said...

It looks like you're sending me to school yet again. I'll be completely honest and say that up until now I have hardly ever heard of The Ramones and hardly ever got to listen to their music, therefore I have assumed they are a minor band.
It could be a matter of geography, but I can attest that while the likes of Led Zeppelin get played in Israeli radio quite often and every idiot can play Stairway to Heaven on their grandmother's guitar, The Ramones are virtually anonymous. My English wife didn’t hear of them, either.
Regardless, I will not pretend to be an authority on the matter; I just know who I happen to be aware of and whose music I like. Therefore, I appreciate your lesson.

As for the music I like, it varies significantly with my mood. Late at night and early in the morning I tend to be a jazz person, for example.
I have to say that I have lost touch with music as it doesn't seem to be there's much worthwhile mainstream stuff out there at the moment, and I don't have the time to actively search for stuff. Green Day is an example for a band I might have liked but generally dismiss; like many others, most of their songs sound the same to me.
Overall, of the new stuff, Jack White's endeavours are probably my favorites. As for general favorites, I like Cream's type of blues the best, although much of their stuff is too psychedelic for me. The bands I listen to the most are Led Zep, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and Paul Simon / Simon & Garfunkel. Softer rock than those you have named.

Mike said...

Whoops. Sorry, I forgot that tastes don't always interlap across international lines. That's America-normative thinking on my part. That little rant would have been justified if it were an American who had any passing knowledge of hard rock music. But yeah, The Ramones are very influential. I was lucky to catch their last show in Boston in 1996.

Moshe Reuveni said...

I'll take your word for it, though. If they're as good as you say then there's a lot of potentially good music out there waiting for me to unveil it, which is always good.
That said, I have to say I am surprised just how much British influence there is to my taste in music. For the record, my taste has been shaped by my older brother with whom I shared a room growing up, so I tend to have "older" taste than what my age would indicate.