The School of Rock

The School of Rock

Directed by Richard Linklater. Starring Jack Black, Mike White, Sarah Silverman, Joan Cusack, Maryam Hassan, Kevin Clark, Rebecca Brown, Joey Gaydos Jr., Robert Tsai. (2003, PG-13, 108 min.)

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 3, 2003

When his roommate’s bitchy girlfriend asks rock & roll schmo Dewey Finn (Black) what he’s done for society lately, he replies, "I serve society by rocking." And as anyone who’s been following Black’s career with his faux rock band Tenacious D already knows, that’s no lie: Black can rock with the best of them. He has both the requisite chops and pipes, and with his Belushi eyebrows and Farley snits, he’s the best of the heavyweight comedians in one not-so-svelte package. Plus, as The School of Rock so admirably notes, the guy’s got heart. That Richard Linklater would choose this amiable, kid-friendly, rock & roll comedy as his next feature, following the deeply philosophical meta-movie Waking Life and the spare, powerful Tape, has got to be some sort of Guinness-worthy record ("Most Abrupt Tonal Shift in a Director’s Oeuvre?"), but let’s take a moment to decipher why it all works as brilliantly as it does. Linklater’s love of rock is no secret – witness Dazed and Confused first and foremost – but teaming Austin’s indie auteur with Black’s oversized histrionics was a stroke of genius. The School of Rock brings not only Black’s musical skills but also his acting abilities front and center; he’s no longer so much the class cutup, sniggering at the back of the classroom, as he is the garrulous professor extolling the virtues of rocking, maaan, to a handful of riff-needy students. It’s a fully developed performance by Black – his first – and although the character of Dewey Finn seems a more established take on his smartass High Fidelity record-store clerk (and it is), it’s also much, much more. Surrounded by an excellent supporting cast and working from a script by Chuck & Buck’s Mike White (who also co-stars as Dewey’s roommate Ned), this is Black at his best, and Linklater as well. White’s script holds few surprises – it is at its core The Bad News Bears with musical instruments, with Jack Black as Walter Matthau – but that doesn’t dilute or render the film’s wonderful momentum one iota. Dewey Finn, wannabe rock star, finds himself kicked out of the heavy metal band he helped found on the same day his roommate (and ex-band buddy) Ned is pressured into demanding all of Dewey’s back rent by his girlfriend Patty (Silverman). That same day Dewey answers the phone and, pretending to be Ned, accepts a position as a substitute teacher at a moneyed private grade school for gifted and talented kids. Soon enough, he’s dodging the school’s suspicious principal (Cusack) and abandoning any curriculum other than that of rock & roll, hoping to create a real live band out of a group of fifth-graders, the better for him to win the local Battle of the Bands. All of this, of course, is merely an excuse to let Black’s manic persona out of the bag and all over the audience. And in the hands of almost anyone else, it might not have worked. But Linklater, White, and especially Black understand that in the end the only prerequisite for being a good teacher is being passionate about your subject, and both Black and Dewey have passion to burn. The young actors who play Dewey’s ersatz bandmates, too, are uniformly excellent, both in their musical competence (Linklater apparently searched far and wide to cast the best and the brightest) and in their ability to convey distinct personalities – and this in a film loaded with outsized characters. As far from Slacker as you could possibly get and still be using a motion-picture camera, The School of Rock is nonetheless pure Linklater, pure rock & roll, and pure fun. Gabba, gabba, hey!

More The School of Rock
Back to 'School of Rock'
Back to 'School of Rock'
Get schooled on the film by Mike White, Jack Black, and Richard Linklater in time for its 10th anniversary

Chase Hoffberger, Aug. 23, 2013

More Richard Linklater
Everybody Has Some
Everybody Has Some
In a round-robin interview, Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Louis Black open up about their new films

March 11, 2016

Epic Feats
Boyhood: Twelve Years on Film
This photographic record of Richard Linklater's landmark film shows a lot going on before and behind the camera

Jesse Sublett, Dec. 19, 2014

More Richard Linklater
Following Linklater's <i>Dream</i>
Following Linklater's Dream
Richard Linklater: dream is destiny finally opens in Austin

Josh Kupecki, Aug. 28, 2016

That Eighties Film
That Eighties Film
How Everybody Wants Some!! re-created history

Richard Whittaker, April 7, 2016

More Richard Linklater Films
Everybody Wants Some!!
Time moves on, but Richard Linklater's characters still walk and talk

Marc Savlov, April 1, 2016

With Boyhood, filmmaker Richard Linklater paints his masterpiece.

Marjorie Baumgarten, July 18, 2014

More by Marc Savlov
Phoenix Forgotten
Missing teens and mysterious lights in this found-footage sci-fi film

April 28, 2017

The Devil's Candy
Heavy metal and Satanism in a rural Texas town

April 21, 2017


The School of Rock, Richard Linklater, Jack Black, Mike White, Sarah Silverman, Joan Cusack, Maryam Hassan, Kevin Clark, Rebecca Brown, Joey Gaydos Jr., Robert Tsai

This content has not been formatted for this window size.
Please increase the size of your browser window, or revisit this page on a mobile device.
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)