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flick pick | School of Rock 2003
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Written by: Mike White
Starring: Jack Black, Mike White, Joan Cusack, Miranda Cosgrove, Joey Gaydos Jr., Robert Tsai, Kevin Clark, Rebecca Brown
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: comedy
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: dumb but fun, quintessentially quasi-adult
The critic says: ½/ 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5 

Plot synopsis Dewey Finn just wants to rock -- sadly, real life keeps trying to get in his way. His best friend's girlfriend is threatening to kick him out of the apartment they all share because Dewey can't pay rent, and his bandmates have just given him the boot because, frankly, Dewey's stage antics and 20-minute wailing guitar solos are starting to make them all look like a joke. The whole world's against him -- but hey, Dewey figures that's what good rock-n-roll is all about. Still, Dewey's beginning to realize that, in his current circumstances, a little bit of cash might not be so bad a thing. Which is why when the principal of a prestigious prep school calls for his roomie Ned one day, desperate for a good substitute teacher, Dewey decides to co-opt Ned's identity, and take the job himself. Dewey figures he'll play babysitter for a few weeks, collect the cash, and find himself a new band in his after-school hours, hopefully in time to compete in the local Battle of the Bands. What he doesn't count on is that his new job actually requires real work, as both the principal and his students seem to have this crazy notion that he should do some teaching when he shows up each day. Dewey's having none of that -- until he happens to overhear his students in music class one day, and comes up with a brilliant idea. He tells his kids they'll be devoting their full time to a new project -- Rock Band -- supposedly to get a head start in preparing for a state-wide competition that will take place the following semester. Soon Dewey's rocking out with his rather talented band of 11-year-olds, teaching them about power chords, rock history, and the importance of standing up to The Man.

Review School of Rock sticks to your standard Hollywood formula from start to finish. The premise is pure fantasy, the plot simplistic, the ending predictably feel-good. But by allowing the manic and deeply amusing Jack Black and his terrific young costars to simply get on screen and do their things, director Richard Linklater gives this very mainstream movie a subtle edge, irreverent joy, and delightful looseness that you just don't get in most commercial flicks. You think you know what's going to happen along every step of the way -- and in the grand scheme of things, you're pretty much right. But each scene is filled with little surprises -- whether it's what strange facial contortion Black's going to come up with in the face of yet another setback to his plans, or how a specific kid is going to respond to the crazy teacher's demands. One of my favorite moments in the movie is when Dewey, trying to teach a lesson about standing up to authority figures, urges his students to have a try at telling him off. Lawrence, an unfailingly polite Asian-American classical pianist cum keyboard player, blurts out to Dewey in his clipped, accented English, "You're a fat slob and you have body odor!" The delivery is wonderfully awkward, so that it actually does come off as spontaneous and believable, and that's a big part of the appeal of School of Rock: even when the events unfolding are clearly ludicrous, there's an emotion there that feels pure and real. There are some people out there who insist that classical music is intrinsically better than rock-n-roll, but me, I'm of the opinion that the world's a better place because we have both. Sure, complexity and depth and grandness of scale are good for the intellect and all, but there's something deeply satisfying about the way a three-minute dose of straightforward verse-chorus-versus can just hit you in the gut and pull you into its rhythm, connecting you to something bigger and more universal than what your small brain can properly describe in words. Like the rock classics Dewey's always extolling to his young protégés, School of Rock proves a movie doesn't have to be complicated to rock hard.
—reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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