Thursday, October 10, 2013

57. School of Rock (2003)

Code-name: Stevie Nicks

Type: Comedy, Music, Inspirational Teacher

Director: Richard Linklater

Musical Score: Craig Ledren

Dewey Finn- Jack Black
Principal Rosalie "Roz" Mullins- Joan Cusack
Summer- Miranda Cosgrove
Zack- Joey Gaydos Jr.
Larry- Robert Tsai
Freddy- Kevin Alexander Clark
Katie- Rebecca Brown
Tomika- Maryam Hassan
Ned Schneebly- Mike White (who also wrote the screenplay, amazingly)
Patty Di Marco-Sarah Silverman

Golden Globe Nomination- Jack Black- Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical


First of all, I've made a horrible habit of disliking certain people in show business on the basis of one character they played.
However, I'm not entirely positive that the fact I can't stand Sarah Silverman began with this movie... but it certainly contributed.

It's funny that I was talking about "The Hangover" a few weeks ago because I found myself making comparisons while I watched this movie last night.
Firstly because Sarah Silverman was almost as bad as Rachel Harris in "The Hangover." They play the dominant force in the relationship and act as a source of conflict for the protagonist.

The other common link is the role of "lovable idiot" and who played it better: Jack Black or Zach Galifianakis.

Tread lightly, there be spoilers afoot

From the start of this movie, we know how much of an idiot Dewey Finn (Jack Black) is. He's a deluded man-child who's part of a rock band... and after the gig we see in its opening moments, he's kicked out. Clearly, he's acting the part (or what he believes the part entails, between the crazy antics, making faces and "20 minute guitar solos"), but he doesn't appear to have any legit musical talent.

He's also a free-loader living with his brother Ned (Mike White) and his brother's girlfriend, Patty (Sarah Silverman)... according to Dewey, his brother had no problem with him living rent-free before he started dating Patty. Now she wants him out of the apartment, under the impression Ned is letting him "walk all over him."
How I LOATHE the irony of her opinion... she's the one he's letting walk all over him...

Unfortunately, she does have kind of a point...

After being kicked out of No Vacancy and Patty threatening him with eviction, Dewey takes the next opportunity that comes up and runs with it:
He takes down a phone message for his brother, who is wanted to substitute at Horace Green Prep school. When he hears about the pay, Dewey assumes his brother's name and takes the "gig" in his brother's place.

Being the slacker he is, he goes through the motions, letting the kids have recess while he's nursing hangovers.
All of that changes when he hears them in music class and has a "light bulb" moment.

Dewey wants to live out his rock n' roll fantasies AND get back at his band for kicking him out.
Say what you will about our unreliable protagonist, he does know his stuff when it comes to rock music. Except I don't believe as he does that they deliberately write music that make no sense and put all their energy into rocking as loud as they can.
My knowledge of classic rock goes as far as I know who Pink Floyd, Led Zepplein and Jimi Hendrix are, but I don't know many of their songs or their histories.

Dewey puts together the band, telling the kids it's for a school project where all the other schools will be competing against each other.

At its core, the players include:
Zack Attack on Guitar
Larry (aka "Mr. Cool") on keyboards
Patty on bass
Freddy "Spazzy McGree" on drums
Blondie, Alicia & Tomika on back-up vocals

and of course, Dewey on lead guitar and vocals  :roll:

Miranda Cosgrove (who I knew as the Nickelodeon star who got her start on "Drake & Josh" and got her own show "iCarly"... I stopped watching new Nickelodeon shows around that point) plays Summer, the pet's teacher who tries to tell Dewey how he should teach them... he then appoints her as band manager...
She does play the part pretty well, admittedly (nowadays, I know her better as Margo from "Despicable Me").

While watching this, there are tons of moments where I was thinking: this could only happen in the movies.
It's the only place you will find an idiot who means well, actually knows what they're talking about in a given area and somehow, against all odds, they come out on top... not to mention escape incarceration, lol, considering a couple of laws that he breaks... all for the sake of rock n' roll and "sticking it to the man"

Despite all that, he really is great with all these kids. When they're unsure about their part in the band, he talks them back into it and gives them great advice. That's probably the biggest thing I love about this movie.
I wouldn't necessarily rank Dewey Finn among my top "inspirational movie teachers" (one of my favorite archetypes in movies, btw), but he does help the kids quite a bit. Most of them come from really rich families and don't let them cut loose and be kids.

One of my favorite scenes is where Dewey gives the kids a rock album for homework, catering to each of their given talents.
"Blondie" got Blondie
Larry got Yes ("listen to the keyboards in 'Roundabout'")
Freddy got Rush's 2112 album
Zack got Jimmy Hendrix
after Tomika expressed her desire to sing (great voice, Dewey compared her to Aretha in a future pep talk because she was unsure someone as heavy as her could sing), he gave her Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon ("vocal solo in 'Great gig in the sky'")

I've heard of all these bands and I have heard some of Blondie & Yes... I should get on the rest of them to see what he was drawing reference to.

The next obstacle: getting Principal Mullins to loosen up and allow him to take them on a field trip (which is really the "battle of the bands")...
When she's stressing out about the upcoming parents' night, the faculty tells Dewey about one time she got drunk at the Alumni dinner and did a great Stevie Nicks impression...

The reason why it's my code-name for this particular movie.
Dewey takes her out for a couple beers after work and gets her bopping to "The Edge of Seventeen" while selling her on his idea.

Stevie Nicks is also someone who I've found more reasons to love as the years have gone by. It started with that song and extended to her work with Fleetwood Mac. She's one of my favorite female voices to listen to... I also love how she wrote "Stand Back" after being inspired by Prince's "Little Red Corvette" and he actually came into the studio to play keyboards on the track.

There's also a great reference to Sheila E., who played drums for Prince but had a great career in her own right before and after she worked with him...
Katie said to Freddy how she's an amazing drummer and "she's a better drummer than you."...he reminds me a little of Draco Malfoy because he plays the tough guy of the group. (There's also another kid in the class who looks like Crabbe from Harry Potter)

Sure enough, the truth does catch up with Dewey on Parents' Night.
He just about survives the barrage of questions the parents are giving him about their exposure to rock music... when the bitch calls the cops and ruins everything.

Ned and Patty find out that Dewey took his teaching job... Patty has every right to be concerned that Dewey assuming Ned's identity will ruin his credibility and career... but her timing is TERRIBLE.
Heck, when the cop shows up at the school, the circumstances make he look/sound like a pedophile... not to mention insane.

What's really insane is the fact Dewey evades arrest... and returns to his apartment... don't you think that's the first place the cops are gonna look for you?

But this is a movie and not all the pieces are supposed to line up. That's what makes it fun. Especially the fact the kids know where he lives and convince him to come to the competition with them.... the fact that the kids are still talking to him at this point is amazing in itself.

The biggest difference between Jack Black and Zach Galifiankis in the two movies...
Allen Gardner is always going to be an idiot, but he's endearing all the same because he's actually intelligent in a backwards sort of way.

Dewey Finn actually learns something and becomes a better person for it. He made just as much an impact on the kids as they had on him. In most other cases, the character arc of the teacher doesn't change nearly as much as the kids they're teaching.

At the end of the day, you can't help but be grateful that the power of rock magically makes everything okay between Dewey and the kids and the kids and their parents...
and it results In him starting an afterschool program where he teaches music theory and rock appreciation from 3 to 6.

And for the record, the School of Rock does not win the battle of the bands... No Vacancy still won, but School of Rock won because the entire audience demanded an encore performance. Now that's powerful! 8-)

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