In the words of AC/DC, we roll tonight to the guitar bite.
Okay yeah that was a pretty lame way to open this entry but I was really stuck for a quote to pick from this film. I guess 75% of young kids dream of becoming famous rock/pop/rap/whatever-music-they’re-listening-to-these-days stars. I admit I was one of them though I did kind of cycle through several different genres. And chances are when this film came out that the other 25% of kids wanted to become rock stars too. Let’s get going.
Meet Dewey Finn (Jack Black) a struggling rock guitarist in an up-and-coming band. Except his band is fed up of his embarrassing antics on stage and so they kick him out so they stand a chance of winning Battle of the Bands. While Dewey is trying to form a band of his own he gets a phone call from a prep school intended for his roommate about a substitute teacher job that pays quite well. Dewey impersonates his roommate and takes the job, intending to slack off for the next few weeks, but then he discovers that the kids in his class are quite gifted at music. He then decides he will mould the kids into his new band and win Battle of the Bands, teaching them about the history of rock music, as well as learning a little something himself along the way.
Now normally I don’t like comedies that much and I don’t like movies about teachers either (I am most definitely not seeing Bad Teacher but that’s a whole other story) and I’m not really a fan of Jack Black. But I am a music lover and this movie was so much fun to watch. Jack Black is insane in this film; if any of you have ever heard the expression “chewing the scenery” you should know that Jack Black does not chew the scenery, he gobbles it whole, gulps it down and then belches it back out again. He’s a little hard to take in this film and you can hardly blame his old band for kicking him out but he plays a good character in this. I have to admit it is pretty nice to see Dewey start out as this complete loser and then slowly actually become the good teacher he impersonates. It’s almost a little heart warming to watch Dewey tell the kids’ parents what he thinks of their kids – of course he then has to go and shoot himself in the foot by saying “I’ve been touched by your kids. And I’m pretty sure I’ve touched them” which of course the parents take in completely the wrong way.
In addition to Mr Black we also have Mr White, Mike White to be specific as Dewey’s rocker-turned-teacher Ned who is under the thumb of his domineering and icy girlfriend Patty played by Sarah Silverman, going completely against type. From her first scene you want Ned to throw her out on the street, she’s that evil. And Joan Cusack makes a return to my list in one of her more entertaining roles – she plays Roz Mullins the school principal who secretly hates that she is the strict authority figure and longs to cut loose and be wild as evidenced when she dances to Stevie Nicks in a bar.
Now we have the kids themselves. First and foremost, the majority of the kids were hired for their musical talent which I think really adds to the film since those kids are all really playing their own instruments and singing on their own instead of having to mime or be dubbed over. All of the kids really stick out and they are a pretty fun bunch to watch. My favourite of the kids would have to be Freddie, the drummer. He starts out as your typical ten year old scumbag in stabilisers but he becomes a team player while still keeping his cool attitude. The actor who plays him is even in a band now. Miranda Cosgrove of Drake & Josh and iCarly fame also plays Summer, who is pretty much a ten year old version of Miss Mullins. It’s hilarious how organised she is and I definitely prefer Summer to that conniving psychotic Megan Parker. We have some other pretty talented musicians like Zack the lead guitarist, who ends up writing the band’s signature song and Katie the bass guitar player who sadly doesn’t get that many lines and her solo even gets cut out of the end credits. And then there’s Lawrence who plays a mean keyboard. The three singers are pretty talented as well, especially Tomika who is a young Aretha Franklin in the making.
This film really is an old school rock fan’s dream – I’m assuming that since I’m not really one myself. We have such gems as Dewey giving specific kids things like CDs of Pink Floyd, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin for homework, having Rock Appreciation classes and giving them a riveting lecture on “The Man” in all its forms. In addition to the musical related scenes we have some comedy gold such as Dewey having to bluff through a math lesson where the principal is watching using his guitar and the aforementioned parents’ night scene. And probably the crowner is where he takes the principal out for a few beers and gets her drunk in order for her to allow him to take the kids on a field trip. As I said above Joan Cusack drunk and singing along to Stevie Nicks had me in stitches.
And if we’re talking awesome scenes then we have to mention the final climactic performance at Battle of the Bands. The entire film was building towards that moment and it did not disappoint. Everything about that scene just screams epic win from the song itself to the costumes, the light show, the solos and other little things such as the looks on Tomika’s parents’ faces when she sings her solo and Zack and Lawrence’s dads being completely lost for words. Oh and Miss Mullins is implied to get picked up by one of the other guys from the band.
So this film was probably responsible for a stream of young kids running into music shops and trying to learn instruments. Hey, I was one of them and I still have my bass guitar even if I do still suck at playing it. Also who could have believed that Jack Black could be in one of the best family films ever made? It seems all of the kids in the band have gone on to have some kind of involvement in music; Kevin Clark who played Freddie now plays drums in a band called The Top Shelf Lickers, Rebecca Brown (Katie) is still playing music and Caitlin Hale (Marta) is still singing. Feel free to look them up and the others too. Until tomorrow my friends and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.