Next month will mark 16 years since the release of Richard Linklater’s School of Rock, and I don’t think it’s a stretch of the imagination to already call it a classic. Any millennial could probably quote the film verbatim; hell, the songs are practically ingrained into my brain. With a soundtrack filled to the brim with original tracks and classic hard rock anthems, plus a stacked cast led by Jack Black at his best, it’s not hard to see why people still love School of Rock to this day.
Dewey Finn (Black) is a down on his luck loser; not only has he been booted from his butt-rock band, but he’s also on the verge of being kicked out of his apartment unless he gets a job. Drastic times call for drastic measures, as Dewey decides to impersonate his roommate and take a job as a substitute teacher in a very preppy elementary school. There, he teaches the kids the only thing he knows: how to rock. Chaos ensues as he tries to not blow his cover and lead his mini rock group to the battle of the bands.
To look back at School of Rock without the nostalgia lenses covering the pupils is surely a trip; a PG-13 comedy produced by Nickelodeon and marketed mainly towards kids, directed by Richard Linklater and starring Jack Black. Obviously, in the years since both talents have flourished in their careers, but at the time it was risky. Linklater’s claim to fame up until that point was the underperforming Dazed & Confused and indie favorites like Before Sunrise and Slacker; meanwhile, Black was more of a supporting character actor than a leading man, playing comedic relief in movies like High Fidelity and Orange County while slowly gaining a cult audience with the emergence of Tenacious D.
It’s fair to say that School of Rock made Black a household name, and Linklater a much more recognizable one, but in truth they are only parts of what makes School of Rock hold up so well. Really, it’s the cast of kids Dewey teaches and their relationships with one another that carry this film’s legacy. Their quips come naturally, and the family-like connection they have with one another and Dewey shines light into the heart of the story.
The child actors only elevate what is already a fantastic script by Mike White (who also happens to play Dewey’s nerdy roommate in a small but memorable role). Well written and clever, White’s script infuses humor into the real world pressures faced by kids. Whether it be Freddy’s conflict between what he wants to do and what he’s told, or Tomika’s fear of not being confident enough to be herself, these conversations prove to be important pieces to the puzzle. It’s in those moments of reality where Dewey learns the importance of empathy and understanding. These sentimental aspects make School of Rock hold up as time passes, and allows it to sit alongside Linklater’s other coming of age tales, albeit a bit more family friendly than the rest.
While I doubt School of Rock will be anybody’s favorite Linklater film– it’s far from mine– I wouldn’t be shocked if it will go down as his most beloved. Adults like me who remember seeing this movie in theaters will eventually pass School of Rock down to future generations, and if I was a betting man, I’d tell you this film will age like fine wine. School of Rock is not only a funny and clever family comedy, it’s a heartfelt look at youthfulness and innocence through the lens of rock and roll, one that will never get old to watch.
“‘Cause you’re not hardcore unless you live hardcore.”
School of Rock
dir. Richard Linklater
Screens Friday, 9/6 @ Video Underground
Doors at 7:30, movie starts at 8
RSVP requested via phone, email, or social media