We’ve seen a flurry of comedic movies and television series that centre on the story of a seemingly inept classroom teacher who turns inspirational. It seems to be a common premise, which has sparked sitcoms such as the NBC series A.P. Bio (starring Glenn Howerton) and films such as Bad Teacher (starring Cameron Diaz). But none of these compare to School of Rock, the cult classic musical comedy directed by Richard Linklater and starring Jack Black. In Jack Black’s top-ranked movie, he stars as Dewey Finn, a rock guitarist who is fired from his band and, desperate for money, pretends to be a private school teacher. Although inept at first, Dewey Finn begins to teach rock music to his students and he ends up inspiring them.
It’s been 20 years now since audience members rocked out and “stuck it to the man” with Jack Black’s Dewey Finn in School of Rock. Sure enough, the film has retained its popularity and still holds up. In short, after 20 years, School of Rock still “rocks,” with Jack Black’s goofiness, as well as the film’s addictive soundtrack and inspirational messages.
I was 16 years old and in Grade 11 when I first saw the cult comedy and I was instantly hooked. My immediate love of the film was partially because of the impressively fitting soundtrack, which includes an array of tracks from Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Ramones, and other legendary classic rock musicians. The film’s appeal is also due to the quirkiness that is Jack Black as he gets up to some shenanigans, pretending to be his roommate, substitute teacher Ned Shneebly (played by School of Rock writer Mike White).
Jack Black is delightfully funny and brings a balance of wackiness and lovability to the role of Dewey Finn. If you don’t believe Jack Black is a delight to watch on screen, clearly you’ve never seen him in The Holiday, in which he played leading man Miles, a romantic interest for Kate Winslet’s character Iris. Although Jack Black may not be recognized as a romantic interest, he brings a lovable goofiness that we can’t help but swoon over. He brings the same kind of nuanced comedy to School of Rock.
What also makes School of Rock a pleasure is its life lessons and messages of inspiration as Dewey Finn encourages his students to be themselves. I’m thinking of one specific scene here where Dewey and his band of private school students are about to go on stage for their audition for Battle of the Bands. Before they’re about to go on stage, student Tomika (played by Maryam Hassan) pulls Dewey aside to tell him she’s afraid to go on because she believes she might be ridiculed for her size. Instead of invalidating her concerns or telling Tomika that she’s not plus-sized, Dewey gives her a pep talk about body positivity.
“Tomika … you’ve got something everybody wants. You’ve got talent, girl,” Dewey tells her. “You have an incredible voice, and I’m not just saying that. You heard of Aretha Franklin, right? She’s a big lady. But when she starts singing, she blows people’s minds. Everybody wants to party with Aretha! And you know who else has a weight issue? … Me. But once I get up onstage, start doing my thing, people worship me. Because I’m sexy! And chubby, man.”
During the course of the film, Dewey also encourages shy student guitarist Zack (played by Joey Gaydos Jr.) to stand up to his domineering father. He even gets the uptight school principal Ros (played by Joan Cusack) to open up and embrace her love of rock music as well.
Even after 20 years, the heartwarming scene between Tomika and Dewey is still going viral and making an impact on viewers. As viewers have highlighted, the ironic part in all of this is that, even though Jack Black’s Dewey is initially only pretending to be a teacher, he ends up becoming a great one.
This is truly a testament to the resurgent popularity of School of Rock, a cult classic which brings a balance of quirkiness and life lessons that are still leaving its mark on fans. Now, please excuse me while I watch School of Rock again.