Re-Watch: The School of Rock (2003)

The School of Rock
Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Mike White
Cast: Jack Black, Mike White, Joan Cusack, Sarah Silverman, Adam Pascal, Lucas Papaelias, Chris Stack, Lucas Babin, Jordan-Claire Green, Veronica Afflerbach, Miranda Cosgrove, Joey Gaydos Jr., Robert Tsai, Angelo Massagli, Kevin Alexander Clark, Maryam Hassan, Caitlin Hale
Seen on: 30.6.2021

Content Note: misogyny

Dewey (Jack Black) is a passionate musician, playing guitar in a band that has grown tired of his antics, feeling that he is holding them back with his talk about real rock instead of going in a more crowd-pleasing direction. That’s why they kick him out just before a big music contest. Hurt, Dewey withdraws to Ned’s (Mike White), where he lives for the moment, much to the chagrin of Ned’s girlfriend Patty (Sarah Silverman) who would like to see Ned, a substitute teacher, in a more settled position without any old friends who are freeloading. In short, Dewey needs a job, so when Ned gets a call to substitute at a prestigious school, Dewey pretends to be him. And when he realizes that the kids he should be teaching are actually good musicians, he hatched a plan to fulfill his dream after all.

I saw The School of Rock for the first time not long after it came out and I remembered it quite fondly. So when I was in the mood for a nice comedy, I decided to give it another try. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite hold up as well as I’d hoped, even if it is still pretty entertaining.

The film poster showing Dewey (Jack Black) in his teacher outfit with a guitar, in a full-on rocker pose. Behind him, we can see 8 children dressed as rockstars themselves.

The School of Rock is the usual “a dude is very late to growing up” story and I think I have run out of patience a little bit for those stories. Especially when they’re sprinkled with little misogynistic jabs – Patty, for example, is nothing but a misogynist trope: the uptight, nagging woman who has her boyfriend by the balls and doesn’t let him have friends and expects him to be grown up in a certain way – an expectation so unreasonable that the film makes sure we hate her for it.

And the principal (Joan Cusack) who has to be pitied because she has to take on all this responsibility – so much responsibility that she doesn’t have any chance anymore to let out her fun side. What the film fails to acknowledge in the slightest that she could allow herself to be fun and less strict if the men around her (Dewey above all) would take on their fair share of the responsibility instead of settling the women with all of it.

The kids from the band hanging around Dewey's van.

It’s probably no surprise that with a view of responsibility like this, Dewey grows up surprisingly little throughout the film. And I’m not saying that he should have given up on his dreams entirely, but real growth would have meant that he wouldn’t have been performing with the children at the end.

Anyhow, the film is still pretty fun because Jack Black is fun and charming, and above all, the kids appear to have so much fun with him that it is joyful to watch them interact. Still, overall I just remembered the film better than it was now.

Dewey (Jack Black) in the classroom, guitar in hand.

Summarizing: still watchable, if you don’t have anything better to do.

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