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School of Rock

Starring Jack Black; Mike White Joan Cusack, Sarah Silverman, Miranda Cosgrove, Joey Gaydos Jr., Robert Tsai
Screenplay by Mike White
Directed by Richard Linklater

IN SHORT: Best family comedy for post single digits of the year (so far). [Rated PG-13 for some rude humor and drug references. 112 minutes]

We can't say that we've ever thought very much about Jack Black, whose slovenly pose rarely rose to the level of a second rate Belushi wannabe. Yes, we noticed Black in High Fidelity but that supporting role sure wasn't enough to score a name above the credits (which went to co-writer John Cusack, for those with really short memories). Now there is School of Rock, a solid and funny from start to finish comedy that, while it does not do much to change the usual JB shtick, it sure gives us more than enough opportunity to like, and more importantly laugh along with the character on screen. Yeah, Jack Black is flat out terrific in School of Rock, one of those very rare film outings that should appeal to both kidlets and their parents. That's wishfully thinking that rap has run it's course among the young but we can dream, right? So here is the first film of the year to ask the musical question: Do you remember Murray the K? Alan Freed or... uh, The Ramones?

The century's been over for years folks. Time to move on for everyone except musician Dewey Finn (Black) for whom rock ended back around 1972 (which, we guess, is also around the year of the character's birth, give or take).The perennial unemployed Finn has been camped on the floor of best friend Ned Schneebly's (Mike White) apartment. Ned's permanent girlfriend Patti DiMarco (Sarah Silverman) is fed up with the loser on the floor and has been pressuring her beau to evict the dude. Dewey's big goal is to win the WROK Battle of the Bands competition, and the big check and record contract that comes with it. But when his band decides to go it alone Dewey is pushed to the limit. He accidentally intercepts a phone call with a job offer for substitute teacher Ned and voila! A false identity is born -- $650 a week nets a lot more than passing the hat in the local rock 'n' roll clubs at two in the morning. And, besides, teaching? How tough could it be?

Think of it this way: the kidlets at Horace Green prep know that $15,000 a year tuition is supposed to go a long way. A fat sub sleeping in the teacher's chair ain't going to cut it. When Dewey -- sorry, everyone thinks he is "Ned" -- realizes that no one in his class has the slightest idea who Aretha Franklin (or any of a long list of classic musical names) is, the man steps up to the plate.

Fifty years after Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly and Bill Haley and Elvis Presley set everything in motion, you'd think the "parents hate rock and roll" thing would be rather passé, right? It is, but this script concentrates on the overseeing headmistress (Joan Cusack) who is more tightly wound than an clock about to burst its spring, though she does like Stevie Nicks' solo stuff -- it's important to note that Dewey's definition of what comprised "good" rock seems to end about 1972. He's wrong but he's, relatively, young. The film soundtrack adds many of the rest of the important bands that first popped in the 70s.

Why does it work? Black and soundtrack aside? The answer probably lies in co-star Mike White's script. We've been very entertained by White's earlier stuff, like the surprising Chuck & Buck (though, strangely enough, not by Jack Black's earlier outing in White scripted Orange County.)

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to School of Rock, he would have paid . . .


Simply: School of Rock is a great comedy with a kick ass soundtrack which, according to the credits, features a Kiss cover of a Ramones classic. Cranky could plotz.

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