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School of Rock

Conclusions to be drawn from the new movie "School of Rock," starring Jack Black:

* Black’s character, Dewey Finn, is not so bright.
" Kids thrive on individual attention.
" It takes little smarts to give kids that attention. Even Dewey can do it.
" Teachers, and administrators, can get a little too wrapped up in what passes for teaching…but isn’t.
" Parents want what they perceive to be best for their children.
" Parents can be proven wrong.
" Rock & Roll, at least for some people, is the greatest thing on earth.
" Kids, given the chance, can accomplish amazing things.

Whether these are things you already know or not, "School of Rock" makes for an enjoyable lesson. Dewey Finn, a broker-than-broke rock guitarist and singer (of sorts), uses his roomy’s name to get a job as a substitute teacher in a rather exclusive elementary school. Now these are bright kids-5th graders– who do want to learn, so when sending them all out for one continual recess begins to get boring, Dewey realizes that many of them happen to be talented musicians. But that few of them are allowed to even speak the name of Rock and Roll. Soon, he’s hauling all his equipment into the classroom and getting them up to speed on the legends of Jimi Hendrix, Clapton, Led Zep, the Doors, and more, under the guise of a new class project called "Rock Band." For those who don’t play, each is given a specific duty-perhaps the most important being the crew who devise some sound proofing for the classroom-for rather obvious reasons.

Rock history, rock appreciation and theory, are all courses to challenge their minds-but the teacher also makes it clear that rock is about passion, joy, and power. The most revealing scenes are the brief one-on-ones with teacher and student. Lawrence thinks he can’t play cause he’s not cool enough. Dewey assures him that that is the very thing that will make him cool, and accepted by other kids. Tamika, a little bashful, and not interested in her non-musical assignment, asks for a chance to sing. So, with all the others out of earshot, she rips off a blazing "Chain Chain Chain that puts Aretha to shame. Ah…she’s got the job.

And an overheard comment by a parent to his son leads to a class discussion of breaking the rules, rebellion, and expressing your anger openly and honestly. While showing them film clips of rock drummers, Dewey even manages to slip in shots of Buddy Rich and Art Blakey. That’s gotta be for advanced study. Here’s a fun film with some stereotypes, yes, including the perfect uptight principal in Joan Cusack, but director Richard Linklater , and his cast, bring a believable humanity to each one.

School of Rock, starring Jack Black and Joan Cusack, is now showing at the Showplace West in Bloomington, and reviewing the movies for WFIU, I’m Joe Bourne.

Peter Noble Kuchera

Originally from Columbus, Indiana, Peter moved to Bloomington in 1998. He completed four years of film study at the University of Minnesota and two years of film production in the Film Cities in St. Paul. He began reviewing movies for WFIU in 2003 and began producing on-air fundraising spots for WTIU in 2006. In 2008 he received a second place award for Best Radio Critic at the Los Angeles Press Club’s First Annual National Entertainment Journalism Awards in 2008. Peter passed away suddenly on June 8, 2009.

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