Jack Black, when let loose to do his thing, is hilarious.
As the front man for hard rocking humorist legends Tenacious D, he brings foul-mouthed rock bravado to new levels. In “The School of Rock,” the PG version is on display. And while it’s not the full-on JB, it’s more than he’s given in a feature film to date, and it is a surprisingly touching version.
Two things need be said before this review can continue:
1. I have been obsessed with Tenacious D in the past and still find them amusing. Plus they write some pretty damn good songs.
2. “The School of Rock” is a kids movie.
Sure, children’s movies don’t usually have references to Richard Wakeman’s keyboard solos on Yes’ “Roundabout,” but nevertheless, it’s a kiddy flick. The kids all learn how to believe in themselves and Black learns a valuable lesson from the kids. It’s nothing new.
Sarah Silverman, a great comic actress, is wasted as the typical bitchy girlfriend who wants her boyfriend to grow up. And Mike White, who also wrote the script, is underused as said boyfriend.
The glee, however, that JB exudes for rock ‘n’ roll is contagious. It infects the entire movie. Everything that is great about “The School of Rock” begins with Black’s performance. Without him, no movie. Director Richard Linklater is more known for such adult fare as “Dazed and Confused” and “Waking Life,” so “The School of Rock” is a successful departure for him into mainstream commercial fare. Linklater and White wisely keep the focus on Black at all times, rather than straying down the tired path of learning too much about the kids backstories.
The plot is entirely formulaic and the wrap-up is utterly ridiculous. But it is impossible not to surrender to the simple charms of a story that casts the teacher as the outcast, and delight in the general subversiveness of the rock superego saving the day!
Being a big fan of the “D,” I’ve seen many of Black’s larger than life mannerisms before. If you haven’t heard Tenacious D, or seen much of Black before, you will probably like the movie even better than I did. Given the lead role, and lots of freedom to move about the comic arena, Black has created a funny and loving tribute to rock ‘n’ roll that can be appreciated by people of all ages.
At the same time, I’ll still be waiting for the rumored upcoming Tenacious D movie. And I’ll be hoping its rated R.