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There are basically two types of movie in this world; the serious and the not-so-serious; although I doubt that there is a film out there that can ever be taken seriously per se. (The) School Of Rock definitely falls into the last two categories (read it again if you are confused). The closest celluloid cousin that I would associate School Of Rock to would be the "feel-good mismatch" elements from Sister Act along with an equal dose of "students playing teacher's music" from Mr Holland's Opus for good measure. This time, the musical beast that drives this movie along is good ol' Rock and Roll, and there won't be a single disappointed fan out there that won't recognise at least one of their favourite (re-rendered) songs here.

School Of Rock, The
School Of Rock takes a dreamy washed-up rock-guitarist as he grooms a bunch of musically talented but misdirected (as he sees it) teens to win a valuable Battle of the Bands contest against his former band members. Whilst this wouldn't be seen as the noblest of causes for anyone to take, somehow this selfish motivation becomes a distant thought within the storyline against the wonderful premise of teaching these kids how to play Rock and Roll. The concept of putting together some seemingly simple rhythms and riffs to make a reasonably sounding rock anthem is faithfully reproduced in this movie. This is something that I think no other movie has ever addressed with nearly as much depth or (dare I say it) realism before, since we see these classically trained musical prodigies being taught another style of music. Sure, Sister Act did the same thing here to a point, but School of Rock takes this concept a lot further. Take it from me that playing an instrument is only possible with a lot of practice and patience, although learning a different genre entirely is equally as challenging but just as rewarding.

Movie
Dewey Finn (Jack Black) lives and breathes rock and roll as if his life depended on it, but the seemingly impossible dream of "the big break" eludes him at every corner. However this doesn't stop him from making a fool of himself onstage or being unable to pay the rent. And because of his tendency to overdo things, the band that he put together with his own sweat and tears, No Vacancy, has decided to vote him out of the group. This only spurs him on to beat them at the local Battle of the Bands contest, but his reputation has preceded him since no one is willing to join up with such a maniac.

With no hope left to live like a wannabe rock star, he does the unimaginable and decides to sell up his dreams so that he can start settling his outstanding debts. Just when he has succumbed to the other side, a school principal (Joan Cusack) rings up to offer his housemate Ned Schneebly (Mick White) a substitute teacher position. Jack realises that "job = money" so he surreptitiously takes on the role himself. As he gets to know his students, he soon discovers their hidden musical talents and instantly recruits them (albeit without anyone knowing his true motives) to fulfil his Rock fantasies.

Somehow without anyone in the school noticing the excess of 4/4 music emanating from his classroom, Finn grooms these kids into the next big thing since Silverchair (or so he hopes). He encourages each and every student by allocating them with a different role, whether it is playing within the band, handling security, rigging the lighting or managing the group itself. Along the way there are many obstacles to overcome so that they may have a taste of the big-time and even open up some minds in the process.
School Of Rock, The
Jack Black is better known to audiences as "who's that guy?" in all the movies he has partaken in, although he can be found starring (and cameo-ing) in a wide variety of blockbusters including Waterworld, Shallow Hal and Ice Age. As it turns out, he's not too bad a guitarist either with his equally talented (and tubby) friend from the music duo act called Tenacious D - check out their song Tribute to get an idea of their sense of humour and solid appreciation for rock music. Mick White however is most notable for his screenwriting credits, and you will probably only recognise him as that religious guy from The Good Girl. And if you haven't made the connection here already, these two actors make up the best surname combo since Smith and Jones starred in Men in Black - if you're in doubt here, drop me a line.

Video
Presented in its original 1.78:1 ratio and 16:9 enhanced, this is a very nice transfer that really only suffers in the colour department. Apart from this, the image is relatively sharp and exhibits a minimal amount of grain that helps to ground this film into reality (so to speak), unlike the concerted efforts of one G.L. who thinks that digital movie-making is the wave of the future.

Black levels are of the usual depth that is now standard for any discerning DVD viewer as is the shadow detail on the whole being relatively uniform throughout. Maybe the most problematic part of this image is when Jack Black's character is kicked out of the band; this scene is suitably foreboding and underlit to possibly enhance (?) his situation. The contrast does tend to look bland and uninteresting throughout; ironic though that the music video looks a lot more cheery than the movie itself. Thankfully the DVD encoders have done a bang-up job on the many different environments that were filmed for this movie, so every scene on display is at its best with no MPEG compression artefacts to be found.

The colour scheme is mostly underwhelming but still natural; again maybe to highlight (?) the drabness of what everyone is going through with the only improvement coming from the neon-based lighting of the final musical act. That said, the overly colourful stage does provide a hint of video noise coming from the blue lighting, which can prove slightly distracting for those discerning quality nuts out there.

Whist this isn't nearly the most impressive of film transfers ever to see the light of a DVD laser beam, it does the job well as there are no issues regarding the perception of what occurs onscreen.

School Of Rock, The
Audio
For the subject material that this movie addresses, there isn't that much going on in all six speakers except when the full-on rock music kicks in, and this doesn't include most of the stuff that the kids play themselves. What I mean by this is that for a lot of the time you are graced by a somewhat amateur mixing when the kids play their instruments, which is actually a good thing in this case. You can tell that the kids are making the music rather than the film pretending that there is a top-name producer fiddling with his knobs inside the classroom somewhere off-screen. The garage-band sound inherent in its delivery actually provides some much-needed realism to this movie and even then you know that these kids would sound pretty darned good no matter how they are eventually mixed.

Dialogue is always intelligible, although there is hardly a time when someone is trying to talk above the music itself, except in the finale, as the rest of the time they are trying to hide what they are doing (watch the movie to know what I mean). The properly produced music cues naturally occur throughout the front stage speakers with the surrounds producing the occasional backfill of this music only and little else. The subwoofer could have been bumped up another notch or two simply because we are talking about the loudest sound on earth (not including the overly processed stuff that kids today seem to adore), but what we have here certainly helps support the music that abounds this soundtrack. All in all, the songs deserve to be bumped up to 11, however this soundtrack barely registers at half this number.

In what has to be a bizarre choice, there is also a Hungarian dubbed derivative of this soundtrack which, let's be honest, sounds like you are watching one of those indecipherable foreign plasticine animations. This in itself adds a whole new layer of humour to the movie, although in the wrong way I expect.

Extras
This is where the package falls down a lot more than it shouldn't have, simply because most of the attention has been placed on Jack Black's eccentricities rather than providing more behind-the-scenes material. Whilst his antics are subdued and rather humorous in the movie, the excess of such in these extras does prove quite tiresome very quickly and it doesn't make you want to come back to them in a hurry. Jim Carrey still reigns as the King of Irritability, but if Jack ain't careful he could soon take over that role if his outrageous personality is over-exposed at this level to the movie-going public - sorry dude.

School Of Rock, The
The Audio Commentary with Jack Black and director Richard Linklater has mainly the actor spouting out their experiences in making the movie. Especially interesting is the evolution of the script itself to suit the actor's particular style of music (or at least his obsession with it) and how they went about filming the musical numbers themselves with the kids. The Kids' Kommentary on the other hand could have been handled a lot better by allocating some adult supervision within the recording booth. These ankle-biters basically have free reign to, well, act like kids most of the time, so most of what they come up with only appeals to those who can't get enough Dumb and Dumber in their movie diet.

MTV's Diary of Jack Black (16 mins) spends most of the time with Mr Black doing inane stuff with his begrudging camera crew. Indeed, he is the precursor to the recently popular docutainment movie entitled Super Size Me as he discusses the various food groups of this gross habit - other times he meanders around with hardly any insight into the movie itself; pity really. Lessons Learned in School of Rock (24 mins) is a slight improvement where a bit less attention is paid towards the actor and more on the behind-the-scenes activity, but I didn't really glean much more info here than what I knew already.

The Kids' Video Diary: Toronto Film Festival (8 mins) thankfully helps to tilt the balance back a bit by showing the movie's opening night release at the Toronto Film Festival from the kids' point of view. Since I have never attended a movie premiere in my life (since no one would ever visit my town, I won't say where atm), watching this footage is a nice way of introducing yourself to the frenetic world of showbiz and everything that happens off the silver screen. The School of Rock Music Video (3 mins) is understandably a truncated version of the movie set to the original song. In a pleasant twist, the footage from Jack Black's Pitch to Led Zeppelin (3 mins) is the piece of film shot to be shown the surviving members of said group to ask them for permission to use The Immigrant Song in this movie. Since Plant and Page are extremely reluctant to allow their songs to be "exploited" in the movie business, this marks a long-overdue change of their thinking. The Theatrical Trailer (2 mins) rounds the package off.

School Of Rock, The
Overall
School Of Rock has the same seriousness and plausibility as that seen in Sister Act, and as such is just as entertaining to those who appreciate a healthy dose of feel-good know-yourself coming-of-age kind of flick. Also, the rock song played near the end will send a chill down your spine just as the one played in Mr Holland's Opus did a few years back. However, there is a near-cringe moment when you think the contest will play out the same way as what eventuated in Sister Act 2, but rest assured that these kids instead win the most coveted prize of all in Rock and Roll (and it isn't the money).

Sure, School Of Rock is a bit sickly sweet, tacky, corny and quite a bit phoney, but what it does show is that the legacy of Rock and Roll will never die. All in all, this movie is a pleasant deviation from your average blow-em-up. And keep watching during the end credits for an in-movie joke sung to AC/DC's ultimate tribute towards the greatest contribution ever made to contemporary musical culture.


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