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rrramble retrospective: School of Rock

School of Rock, the hilarious cult classic that gave us the iconic 'you're tacky and I hate you', has officially reached it's twentieth birthday, and we've brought you a rrretrospective to celebrate!

This feel-good comedy saw Jack Black take on the role of Dewy Finn, a rock enthusiast who poses as a teacher and instils in his prep school pupils one of life's most important lessons: sticking it to the man.


Whether you've been hooked since this movie first struck gold, or you've been living under a rock for the last two decades - you're about to get schooled.

A photo of Jack Black, as Dewy Finn, in 'School of Rock'.  He is clad in his teacher disguise, a patterned button up and a bowtie, and the top of the guitar strapped to him is just in a frame. The text below him reads 'class of...2003?!'

Juliette

This is a film I hadn’t watched properly all the way through, mostly catching some clips on TV - but it would come on TV a lot! Because of this, I sense I don’t share the same amount of nostalgia with lovers of this film. But, I can see why this is such a beloved and classic film for so many people.

I think Jack Black and his humour is definitely an acquired taste, especially now. A few times I did slightly cringe at his hyperactive energy and “Rock on, dude!” attitude, but Dewey is such a cool character especially after his character development. What makes Dewey “cool”, like other ‘cool teacher’ tropes like Bad Education’s Alfie Wickers, is that he respects the children as his equals. He doesn’t patronise them or deny their agency - even precocious Summer with her assertive personality is nurtured by Dewey, he even delegates to her and makes me the band manager. A scene which always stood out for me, and probably most girls, is when Dewey reassures Tomika about her size and compares her to the late legend Aretha Franklin.

Whilst it’s unarguably scummy that he initially used the children and his pushover flatmate in the beginning, his relationship with the children is mutually beneficial. He breaks them out of their stuffy, antiquated prep school teaching, and they turn him into a better and responsible adult. Another element of the film I enjoyed is that the child actors are genuinely good at acting, and all are loveable. There are child characters such as Lily from Modern Family I find super grating, but these children are both hilarious and believable. I believe the film shows how incredible children can be and it reminds us as viewers to not underestimate them.

An element of the film I believe has aged pretty well is the subtle references and nods to how black people were pioneers of rock and roll (and most music genres). Nowadays the genre of rock, like jazz, is overshadowed by and thought to be primarily for white people. It reminds me of the film Elvis last year and how black artists often were sources of inspiration for the white rock idols that overshadowed them. Elvis and Metallica probably pop into most people’s minds when they think of a rock artist, rather than Jimi Hendrix or Little Richard necessarily. On the subject of music broadly, I did personally find it pretty enraging when Dewey was outraged when a little girl said Christina Aguilera was her favourite artist! It makes sense for his character, but I generally don’t like music snobs or people who deride pop or R&B as “basic”. One element of the film I felt didn’t age well was Sarah Silverman’s character, the flatmate’s girlfriend. I felt that it fed into the “naggy girlfriend” trope, whilst she is indeed annoying, she had very valid reasons to get exasperated with Dewey.

Overall, this is an incredibly enjoyable and fun film. A special mention goes to Joan Cusack’s character, the multi-layered and anxious headteacher. I love how she showed the difficulties and limitations adulthood can bring. Whilst it wasn’t a staple film of my childhood, this will definitely be one I’ll show to my family someday!


Jack Black as Dewy Finn in School of Rock. He stands in front of a blackboard, and points to it with a pointer. 'Grunge', 'Heavy Metal' and 'Punk' are written in chalk with lists of their defining characteristics below each heading.

Gazal

It goes without saying that School of Rock is, without a doubt, probably one of the best comedy movies of all time. Even 20 years on from the 2003 premiere, the movie has definitely made its mark as a cult classic, and stood its ground as the highest-grossing music-themed comedy of all time until Pitch Perfect 2 came out in 2015. Not to mention, when I think of Jack Black I automatically think of this movie, in my opinion it’s probably one of the best films he ever starred in, his performance is memorable to people of all ages. If anything, I would argue that there is nobody else who could possibly play his role in the School of Rock movie.

This movie doesn’t need any kind of introduction, but if you haven’t seen it, then not only have you been living under a rock, but you are most definitely missing out on a hilarious, bad-ass and inspiring movie! School of Rock is pure comedy and rebellious by its nature, but it’s also a very heart-warming movie about self discovery and self-expression.


What’s so clever about School of Rock is how it manages to make something like punk rock feel charming, goofy and family-friendly. This, of course, is something that is not an easy task, since the essence of rock culture from the music to its fashion is stereotypically known to be all things dark, anti-social and dangerous, something which initially puts panic into the minds of the average parent (especially the parents in the movie). However, what makes this movie so lovable is the amount of thought and development behind almost every character - from both the adults and the children. Dewey encourages his students by encouraging them to “Stick it to the man”, the act of rebelling against the obstacles that restrict the students from pursuing their real passions is what punk rock truly is all about - way more than it is about the aesthetic or rock. In turn, the movie’s message is clear in emphasising that rock isn’t something to be repressed or feared, but another form for self expression and confidence that anyone is capable of having. It also highlights as a whole that you as the viewer do not need to be a fan of rock music or a part of the punk rock subculture to enjoy this movie.


There are also so many famous faces in the movie, such as Miranda Cosgrove who plays the preppy perfectionist student Summer, Sara Silverman as the loud and overbearing fiancé, as well as Joan Cusack playing the uptight and stressed Principal Mullins. For me, Joan’s character is one of my personal favourites, notably during the pub scene, where her kooky and fun side emerges after Dewy puts on Stevie Nicks’ classic Edge of Seventeen and she laments that her job turned her into someone she never wanted to be. Other notable characters that had iconic moments were shy Tamika with the amazing vocals that has a very caring moment where Dewey teaches her that her size shouldn’t stop her from singing, as well as fashion-forward Billy who famous for his “you’re tacky and I hate you” line that to this day remains an iconic meme in pop culture.


Overall, I would say that School of Rock holds a very special place in my heart and brings me back to the nostalgia of childhood in the early 2000’s. It is a movie that has truly stood the test of time as the story and the message still holds relevance in today’s day and age. For that reason I am truly relieved it has been untainted by movie franchising and that it has no sequels to tarnish its uniqueness.


So, whether it’s just been a while since you last saw this movie or you’ve never watched it, do take the time to watch this movie, you wont regret it.


Dewy Finn appears on stage alongside two of his pupils. They are all dressed in school uniform and are mid performance. Dewy is screaming the lyrics to a song, his hand raised and ready to riff on his guitar.


Edited by Florence Strang Boon.

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