yawned far more
Wednesday, April 28 2004
This evening Gretchen and I watched a DVD of School of Rock starring the pudgy actor Jack Black and a gaggle of moderately-skilled child actors. In this movie Black plays a dorky local-talent rockstar whose dubious financial situation causes him to impersonate his housemate as a substitute teacher so he can earn some money. Through a cascade of improbabilities, he winds up teaching a class of elementary students how to be in and manage a rock band. You know from the get-go that this is going to be a movie where our impostor-hero will eventually be unmasked and then immediately redeemed in front of an enormous adoring crowd. But the strict adherence to this mainstream formula wasn't what made me dislike this movie. My problem was with the tameness and simplicity of the humor, which was so watered-down that I yawned far more often than I laughed. This problem seemed to have its roots in the large number of child co-stars. With so few adult characters, the movie almost had to be made suitable for children, and that meant that the dirtiest word in the dialogue would be, well, ass. Often such movies can be made enjoyable for adults by a layering of meanings, metaphors, and cultural references (in other words, following the example of the Simpsons or even Holes), but I couldn't detect that happening in School of Rock. Mind you, the movie had a rating of PG-13, meaning that parents of children under the age of 13 were to be "strongly cautioned." Cautioned about what? The two instances of the word ass? The scene where a kid sneaks off and plays cards with some random rockers? (This must have been the "drug reference" warned about at the movie's beginning.) Or maybe the PG-13 rating was necessitated by the inherent subversiveness of any movie touching upon the subject of Rock and Roll. Jesus Christ, this is 2004! Jaws had a rating of PG (tamer than PG-13) and it had a scene featuring crabs swarming over human remains (something I found very disturbing as a child).
Another problem with School of Rock was Jack Black. It wasn't that he's a bad actor or particularly annoying; it's just that his presence in this movie was so completely unrelieved. Film producers take note: Jack Black needs to be cast alongside co-stars of equal screen presence (as in Saving Silverman) or he quickly gets tiresome.
The only great thing about School of Rock was that final inevitable scene of Rock and Roll redemption. It might have been a goofy emulation of AC/DC, but it had all the energy, swagger, and charisma of Rock. Furthermore, Gretchen and I both had to agree that the 10 year old girl who played bass was hot.
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