MOVIE REVIEW: School of Rock

I originally had this review scheduled for later. I pushed it up in light of recent events. #biebersucks

SCHOOL OF ROCK (2003 Paramount)

Directed by Richard Linklater

Do you have kids?  This movie should be compulsory viewing for all parents who want their children to kick their Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus habits. In this surprisingly family-friendly rocker, Jack Black turns a group of school kids on to the greatest sounds known to man: classic rock!  Funny with great songs, School of Rock is among my favourite Jack Black films.  Even those who aren’t particularly into classic rock have been lured in by this movie, such is its charm.

Down-and-out rocker Dewey Finn has been kicked out of his metal band, and replaced by a shirtless guitar player named Spider. Desperate to pay his share of the rent to his substitute teacher roommate Ned Schneebly (Mike White), Dewey steals a teaching gig at a private school. He pretends to be “Mr. Schneebly”, but is barely literate himself. Of course, Dewey’s a bit of a burnout, but he has never let go of his dream. He believes that the world can be made a better place by performing the public service of rocking out. He believes that he has what it takes to rock out. All he needs is some money and a new band….

Starting at the school, he is under the watchful eye of the principal, perfectly played by Black’s High Fidelity castmate Joan Cusack. When Dewey hears the kids play classical music at the school, he realizes he’s found his band. He just needs to teach them a little bit about rocking.

Black is infinitely quotable in this movie, and the music is top notch. The original songs are all stellar, particularly “Way Hard Core”. The classic rock soundtrack are some of the best ever assembled: Metallica, rare Kiss, The Ramones, and even Zeppelin who gave special permission for “The Immigrant Song,” which is used to full effect. The cast is more than good, and lots of very talented young people all appear. And these kids all play their own instruments, too.

Bonus features are generous, and include Black and the kids begging Zeppelin to use “The Immigrant Song”. Insightful behind-the-scenes features concentrate on the kids, and they seem so happy to be taking part in this film and the music.

This film is fun for the entire family, perhaps the only Black film that is appropriate for that. Most importantly, it will give kids an appreciation for the greatest music in the world: rock and roll. And a healthy dose of stickin’ it to the man!

5/5 stars

special features

Jack Black as Dewey Finn (lead singer, guitar)
Joan Cusack as Principal Rosalie Mullins
Mike White as Ned Schneebly
Sarah Silverman as Patty De Marco
Miranda Cosgrove as Summer Hathaway (band manager)
Joey Gaydos Jr. as Zack Mooneyham (guitar)
Kevin Clark as Freddy Jones (drums)
Rebecca Brown as Katie “Posh Spice” (bass)
Robert Tsai as Lawrence “Mr. Cool” (keyboard)



  1. Good review … great movie … Just to add .. Nacho Libre is pretty much a family movie too. Was my daughter’s favorite movie when she was like 3 and 4 or so … Yes .. she is a weirdo


  2. If possible, I would rate this a 10 out of 5, because it’s double awesome. I’ve seen the movie way too many times for my own good, and it’s one of only a handful of movies that both my wife & I can’t shut off anytime we stumble upon it (she doesn’t re-watch movies that often). We even named our car Ned after Ned Schneebly (and since it’s a Toyota Prius, it’s probably more like the real Ned than Dewey pretending to be Ned). Thanks for posting that footage of the reunion concert. Very cool to see them all grown up.

    As for Jack Black movies geared for the whole family, Nacho Libre might qualify. It’s average at best with a handful of big laughs, and the biggest one comes when he refers to someone as a “real douche,” but otherwise it’s a pretty mild PG-rated flick.


    1. Nacho Libre is a personal favourite of mine as well. I had forgotten about it. It’s a nice movie, I was always a fan of wrestling and it was fun to see the Mexican wrestling! Jack Black did everything for the children, for them to have food to eat. And that song…


  3. I saw this with my son when he was about 11 (he’s 19 now). He still listens mostly to rap. Obviously, Jack Black knows his chops for real, but the production is also good. His rock family tree—seen for just a few seconds in the film—is spot-on. I remember when, more than 30 years ago, I tried to impress a girl by pointing out that the music theory on the chalkboard in Fame didn’t make sense, but she shrugged it off as “bad production” and said she still liked the show. Yes, she was a dancer. She found my enthusiasm for Rush hard to understand. Bizarrely (at least to me then) she went to a Judas Priest concert with a local jock. :-(


    1. Well, I’ll take rap over Justin Bieber these days.

      In the special features on the DVD, they talk a bit about that rock family tree, and how they debated it and revised it and made sure it was perfect…it was the attention to detail like that, that impressed me.

      I mean really there’s nothing you can really find flaw with, musically in this movie!


  4. I remember watching this thinking: “Ok it’s going to be fantastic…or it’s really going to suck!”

    Good that I love all the music in there.

    Nothing more to add to what you’ve already said.



  5. Jack Black is really hit or miss. No middle ground. I saw this ages ago and I remember liking it well enough, so it must’ve been a hit. I’d have to see it again to offer any sort of worthwhile opinion of it. Nacho Libre, though, uh-uh. No thanks. Just my tastes versus yours.


      1. Oh man, High Fidelity. I saw that when it was in theaters, back when we lived in Montreal. I remember being floored, thinking “I know someone in real life for every single role in this film…”

        I have the book here too. Need to add it to the stack and re-read it.


  6. Yes, yes and yes again to this entire review!

    I remember watching it in the cinema and feel a huge adrenaline rush when the opening notes of ‘The Wait’ kicked in. Played through the sound system of the cinema it sounded IMMENSE.

    Love this film. My kid will most certainly be watching this as she grows up ;)


      1. Nope. Sandman, Unforgiven? Yes. But a cover from 87? No way. Such a buzzsaw sounding riff as well. If only they could make records that sound like that these days….


        1. It’s funny. The more technology that makes the process easier, clearer, “better”…the less we’re able to make good sounding albums! I wonder if anyone will make a better sounding album than Black Sabbath 1 which was done and dusted in about 8 hours!


        2. There is a lot to be said for bashing out your tunes in a short space of time.

          I think the other difference is that recording is so easy now you can do it in your bedroom. So there’s no more expensive studio times to pay for. Back in the day bands toured their balls off to refine their songs then managed to scrape up enough cash to get a 12 hour slot (usually at night!!) to record their songs in one go.

          I remember when MySpace became the in thing and bands were creating pages on their for their music and we became deluged in really badly recorded and written songs because it was so easy to do it. I’m all for creativity but there is a line……


        3. Your MySpace comment is something Brent Doerner from Helix was complaining about when he went solo in 2006. He was shocked at the lack of good music on MySpace. He hated it. MySpace was never my thing so I didn’t really check out any bands there.

          I like that I can sit here at home, with zero musical talent, and record some incidental music for my videos. From the point of view of a DIY guy like myself, it enables me to create complete videos all by myself. I can see how technology makes it easier to fake it. Instead of recording a good old fashioned rock scream with layered takes like Rob Halford would do it, I just recorded one scream, and doubled it digitally. I recorded some guitar stuff that was not even close to being in time. I fixed the timing in Audacity and made it listenable.

          But that’s me doing this for free and by myself…not trying to sell myself as a musician :)


        4. I get your point. I wasn’t bashing the ability to record from home so much as the ease with which it can be done these days means that quality control seems to go out of the window. For example I reviewed an album a couple of weeks back that had 10 songs on it. Onlyk 6 of them were any good (in my opinion, obviously!) but it was a case of ‘we have 10 songs… let’s put 10 songs on our album’ instead of focussing on making 5/6 really AMAZING songs.

          And I say all of this as someone who was in a band in the 90s and recorded 2 albums in a bedroom…. the first 1 definitely needed editing ;)


        5. Yeah and I didn’t mean for it to sound like I was arguing with you…more just rambling :) Which I do. A lot. I take small pride in figuring out how to make videos and stuff all by myself :)

          Another thing John, it’s even worse when the albums have 15 songs on them and only 6 are any good. The advent of the CD resulted in some horribly long albums!


        6. I get ya ;)

          Yeesssss in some ways modern technology has been the downfall of music. And it’s saviour in others.

          Have to take the rough with the smooth, so they say.


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