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Why the late review on SCHOOL OF ROCK? Well, I’ll tell ya. I first saw SCHOOL OF ROCK on its premiere here in Austin over a week ago. Ordinarily, I’d have dished out a review lickety-split, but there was a problem. I only saw two-thirds of the film. No, I didn’t walk out early, I saw the running time of the film, however, I could only see two-thirds of the screen.


Well, if one sits on the extreme left side of the Paramount Theater, behind the double-side balconies, there is a particular obstruction, resembling a LEGO intrusion from the left, eating a silhouetted stair-step out of the film. Like so…

The result is, anytime that there was a character or event on the upper left third of the screen, I couldn’t see them. For example… there was one shot of the “reaper” van driving, and I could only see the smoke it was spouting. One conversation between Jack Black and Joan Cusack was Jack talking to the lower two buttons of a shirt that apparently had an occupant.

Now… did this affect my enjoyment of the film, not too much, I loved the movie because… everytime something was happening in the middle or right hand side of the screen it was a rocking good time. The kids, when I could see them, were great. Jack had a furious flurry of madcap metal mania, and it was cool.

So, why not just write a review? Because… I really wanted to see the whole thing. Why didn’t I walk out of the theater when I realized that my seats caused me to have such an obscured view? Because, the problem with being Harry Knowles… is that everyone notices when you move. And the last thing I wanted to have happen was for people to think, “Oh, Harry hates the film,” by seeing me get up and leave… Especially at Linklater’s hometown premiere. So, being a trooper, I enjoyed what I could see, and waited till I could see the film fully.

So, paying the full $17 admission and fighting for a good seat like a regular person taking a friend to a movie, I went. Suffered through the seemingly endless supply of funky commercials, then a run of trailers for flicks. I was hoping, because this was a Paramount Picture, that they’d surprise me with a teaser trailer for THE WORLD OF TOMORROW… alas, there was none in sight.

Sitting behind me was an entire row of guys without children, that were there to see Jack Black do his thing. The rest of the theater seemed pretty filled with families, specifically a lot of males with their sons & their friends.

There’s a part of me that believes that SCHOOL OF ROCK can save the future of our children, help them see the way… Jack Black is SO COOL in this film, and his transformation of the kids in the film feels so cool, that you just kinda hope that the kids watching this… watching the crazy antics of the Ramones or Hendrix in clips, seeing the assigning of Cds of YES and PINK FLOYD… well, that maybe these kids will go home, ask their parents for that rock-n-roll… that maybe they’ll log onto their computers and ask internet buddies to file share REAL rock-n-roll and maybe… just maybe there will be a revolution of taste in terms of music. And an entire generation of kids will love Rock-n-Roll… the kinda music that soothes soul.. ya know?

See, I’ve got my own crazy film class I do once a month… where I introduce films to kids around the same age as the kids in SCHOOL OF ROCK… This month was BUGSY MALONE, actually, it was my double feature for the premiere of SCHOOL OF ROCK. Right before the big Paramount premiere, I was holding class at the Alamo Drafthouse for an auditorium of kids that every last Saturday of the month, I teach these kids something about movies and expose them to films they may not regularly see. I’ve brought them Errol Flynn, Ray Harryhausen, Roy Rogers, King Kong, Godzilla, Robert Altman, Alan Parker, Michael Curtiz… Monsters, Heroes, Pirates, Cowboys… the stuff that dreams are made of… Of everything I do… this site, screenings, my book, guesting at conventions, judging at film festivals, chatting with famous folks… my favorite thing I get to do with my life thus far is teach these kids about film. Bring them movies they’ve never seen and may not have ever discovered. After showing EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS, this one little boy came up to me… had to have been 5 years old… maybe 6… And in his biggest most confident voice he said, “That movie was the BEST. Some day I want to make a movie like that, but use NUCLEAR WEAPONS against the ALIENS, That would be cool!” Ya know, it would too… unless some corporate Oscar Meyer type beats him to the punch… But no matter, his imagination was lit!

Watching SCHOOL OF ROCK – Jack Black is a power teacher – a co-conspirator with these kids. The best things in life are often the forbidden things discovered with a “guide” and with this film… Jack Black, along with Richard Linklater and Mike White have conspired to guide children front and center to the School of Rock. Taking pot shots at the “so-called” rockers of today, they teach kids the concept of “THE MAN,” the rebel spirit, the off center alternative road to success. The entire time being conscientious of the fact that they are talking to kids.

This morning, I woke up, checked out the Drudge Report as part of my regular morning ritual and there I see Matt Drudge rousing folks to roast Quentin Tarantino for recommending to cool parents to take their kids to see KILL BILL, a very hard R movie. True… for 99% of parents out there… they are not ready to take their kids to KILL BILL, but… if you’re a cool parent, uncle, aunt… the type that’s willing to spend the time EDUCATING the kid about the various layers present in KILL BILL… yeah sure. Ultimately the film is a fantasy. If anything, it’s a helluvalot better to take your kids to see KILL BILL than TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, cuz as much as I love the Turtles… they leave kids thinking that fighting with Swords, Sais and whatnot is fun… but leaves no permanent damage… and in KILL BILL… Swords cut limbs off and people bleed and die. At least here… there’s a REAL cause and effect. AND if you teach your kids about special effects and how to make “fake” blood at home, then it becomes not about the violence, but the crafting of crazy cinema. And ultimately… that’s what he’s talking about.

I mean, you can look at SCHOOL OF ROCK and like the MPAA – give it a PG-13 because the ‘concept’ that drugs exist are mentioned or contained in lyrics… but at the very same time, there’s very strong messages at work here about being serious with your music and not waste time getting wasted. Sure, handing a 5th Grader THE WALL might seem extreme for some… possibly fueling rebellion and disobedient behavior, but at the same time… it opens their minds to a greater world of music alternatives.

While watching SCHOOL OF ROCK, the predominant thought in my head was how much I wish I had had that teacher and that class. I loved being in Band in Elementary, Junior High and High School… and in High School we had “Jazz Band” which was very cool… But damn it… Where was “ROCK BAND”?

Anyway, SCHOOL OF ROCK owns. It is just a perfect film for what it sets out to do, which is entertain and inspire all audiences to seek to be more cool. Jack Black officially emerges as a major comedic star. The energy and furor with which he holds the screen I haven’t seen since Belushi in THE BLUES BROTHERS. He absolutely rips the screen in two and commands you with his eyes, body language and his voice. I mean… just listen to the way he suddenly goes, “Now salute me with your gauntlet of rock” or “And we will teach Rock-n-Roll.” It just grabs ya by the short hairs and says… ROCK ON!

Joan Cusack is wonderful as the Principal at Forest Green. What I love about her is that she’s just so damn teeteringly wound-up and regretfully repressed as to make me giggle everytime I saw her.

The Kids – every last one of them are wonderful. The casting of these kids and the work that Linklater did with them is nothing short of magical.

The mere fact that there are like 15 kids each with a memorable and identifiable character worthy of remembering… that’s stunning.

Zack (Joey Gaydos) reminded me in so many ways of a young Brian Backer mixed with a tad of Tom Petty in the way he held himself as a guitarist. The Brian Backer part comes in in the wide eyed innocence and low-key calm he had.

Tomika, the shy singer, played by Maryam Hassan… I just hope to god this girl gets a recording soundtrack and gets the right songwriters, cuz she can belt like no tomorrow. Awesome girl.

Kevin “Spazzy McGee” (Kevin Clark) – he just rules. He’s that troubled kid that has a connection made and he’s just fun as hell. The idea that he adopts the punk aesthetic and vibe… he reminds me of the final ‘kid’ in AMERICAN POP that grows up to be that very successful end line of the family.

Katie, the bass player doesn’t say much in the film, but as the girl I was with at the film said… “She’s just gorgeous.” There’s an air about her of awkward beauty in the film. Like she doesn’t feel a connection to the other kids. Very apt of a Bass player.

Lawrence, the keyboard player… (Robert Tsai) – he is just as cool as they come. He’s got that whole Short Round thing going, but at the same time… that smile he gets with being given the notion that he will be considered cool as a rock-n-roll keyboardist… is just awesome. He has a strong sense of manifest destiny that takes over that I just adore.

Hell… you can see where this is going… If you didn’t check out the film this weekend, check it out. If you haven’t taken your kids because of the PG-13 rating, ignore it. In the history of the MPAA, I can’t imagine there has ever been a greater atrocity than the rating they gave this movie. It is almost as if we were rolling back the times where Elvis was considered evil solely for the way his hips moved… too suggestive. B.S.!!! This film could inspire your kid to be as cool as you wish he or she was. This film could sound the death knell for those “boy groups” you hate -- or possibly head off the annoying Barbie Slut Doll singers that don’t quite inspire you. If nothing else… the movie could inspire a fantastic conversation between that kid in your life and you about what makes great Rock-n-Roll… and for us adults.. it does the same. What Rock would you teach?

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