Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Sarah Silverman, Mike White, Miranda Cosgrove
Released: October 3, 2003
This movie is every grade-schooler's dream come true. Actually, it's probably any student's, no matter what age, dream come true. Who wouldn't want to go to school for three weeks where all you do is listen to music and rock out in a band? Sounds a lot more fun than learning about math and history!
Dewey Finn (Jack Black) is in a band called No Vacancy and they are getting ready to compete in the Battle of the Bands to win the coveted $20,000 Dewey so desperately needs so he can pay his friend and roommate, Ned (Mike White) rent money as at the moment he is flat broke. Ned's girlfriend, Patty (Sarah Silverman), who also lives in the same apartment, keeps harping on Dewey to get a job and pay Ned back and also keeps harping on Ned to stop letting people walk all over him. Dewey tells them that as soon as the band competes in the competition, they will win and he can give them the money. Unfortunately things don't turn out so well for Dewey because he finds out the next day that he has been voted out of the band and replaced with a guy named Spider. They tell him his solos go on way too long and the crowd surfing needs to stop (and never seems to work as he always lands on the floor - ouch!) Dewey is understandably furious by this and tells them he's going to start his own band. In the meantime, he needs to figure out a way to make money and that opportunity comes knocking for him when he receives a phone call from Principal Mullins (Joan Cusack) from Horace Green Prep School asking for Ned Schneebly because they need a substitute for their fourth (or maybe it was fifth?) grade class right away because the original teacher broke her leg that day and all the other subs aren't available. When Dewey asks her how long it would be and how much it pays, she tells him, not thinking it strange this man is asking her these questions. Dewey tells her Ned just got home and then pretends to be Ned on the phone and accepts the job. He is able to come into the school without proof of verification of who he is.
The principal introduces "Mr. Schneebly" to the class and Dewey attempts to write the name on the blackboard, only he can't spell "Schneebly" (and I'm not sure if I'm spelling it correctly!) so he erases all the letters except the first one and tells the class to call him "Mr. S." The first day, he lets the kids have recess all day long and just do whatever they want. All the kids think this is the greatest thing ever, except for Summer (Miranda Cosgrove) who is a strict follower of the rules and wants to learn and snides her new teacher for not teaching them anything when her parents pay $15,000 a year for her to attend this school. At the end of his first day, Dewey is so excited he's finally free and high-fives everyone and runs out of the class and out the building. He's almost worse than the students when they're finally free for the day.
The next day, the kids have music class and Dewey listens in. He is impressed that the kids are actually pretty good and gets a brilliant idea. While he has been putting up posters, advertising for band members for the new band he wants to start, he hasn't gotten any prospects. During the music class, he runs to his van where he keeps all his instruments and sets up a drum set, a guitar, a bass guitar, and a keyboard. When the kids return, he tells them, "I heard you in music class. You can really play. WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME?!" Like the kids know he's looking for people who can play instruments! He gets a kid named Zach to play the electric guitar. Zach tells him he only plays classical music because his dad thinks rock music is "a waste of time" and this greatly offends Dewey. He has Lawrence, the shy Asian kid who was playing the piano, to play the keyboard. He asks Katie, the girl who was playing the cello, to play the bass guitar. And for the drums, he has "class rebel" (for a prep schooler!) Freddie on them. When he has the kids start playing together, he becomes very excited and knows he has found his new band. He tells the students they are going to start on their new project called Rock Band. (Best school project ever!) He tells them that this is a school project and it's a requirement and that "It will test your head...and your mind...and your brain!" They will be competing with other schools in the state and if they win the top prize, it will look very good on their permanent records. He says the project will be next semester and they should start now to get a leg up on the competition, but not to tell anyone, not even their parents they're working on it.
He has plans for the kids just to practice all day, but changes the schedule when he finds out they have never heard of the many rock groups he's a huge fan of like Led Zeppelin ("You've never gotten the Led out?") or AC/DC. He adds "Rock History" and "Rock Appreciation" to their morning schedule. Since there are about 15 students in the class and four of them are in the band, the remaining kids feel left out and Dewey tells them, "Just because you're not in the band doesn't mean you're not IN the band!" He needs back-up singers and adds two of the three girls who try out as part of the band. Summer is the third girl who didn't make it because her singing voice is absolutely atrocious. Later, he adds Tomika, a girl who is self-conscious about her weight and was too shy to try out, to join Marta and Alicia ("Don't bogart the mic, Alicia!") as the back-up singers. The kids involved in the band plus Summer are the main focus and the other kids are more ancillary characters. Dewey gives them all jobs so they can feel part of the project. One kid is in charge of graphics; he has a few kids in charge of security detail; Billy, the adorable kid who reminds me of an elementary schooler Kurt from Glee wants to be the band's designer; and the two blonde girls are groupies and their job is to worship the band and name it. Summer was assigned a groupie but after finding out what a groupie was, she was not happy with her "job" and Dewey made her band manager.
I feel a little bad for the kids who aren't IN the band because when he takes those kids to sign up for the Battle of the Bands, the other kids have to stay behind and play a video Dewey made where he's teaching the class so if the principal walks by, they can play it and act like nothing is wrong. It is so hilarious and so wrong that he's taking all these grade-school kids in a van to a very seedy neighborhood. Like that doesn't look suspicious to anyone! Unfortunately they didn't make it in time and aren't allowed to be part of the competition. Summer, being the mastermind she is, gets an idea that all the kids should be visiting from a hospital with a terminal illness and that seals them the gig. When they're returning to the school in Dewey's fan, the Led Zeppelin song, "Immigrant Song" is playing, and if you have the DVD (like I do because I love this movie!), there's a very interesting story behind it. Apparently the band hardly ever give the rights to their songs and Richard Linklater and Jack Black really wanted to use it for the movie so Linklater shot a video of Jack pleading for them to let them use it. Behind him are a bunch of people who were extra in the Battle of the Bands sequence. They sent it to the band members and were thus granted permission. I had actually never heard of that song until I saw this movie, but I absolutely love it! And of course it was popularly covered when Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (US version) was released.
It is so funny because every time "Edge of 17" by Stevie Nicks comes on, I will say to the person next to me (if I'm with someone, like at work or with a friend), "This song reminds me of Joan Cusack in School of Rock." Because it does! Every time! I love that scene where she's singing that song. Unlike "The Immigrant Song", I was familiar (you could say...."hauntingly familiar", haha!) with this song, although, I will admit, I'm pretty sure I found out about it AFTER Destiny's Child sampled it for "Bootylicious" ("Kelly, can you handle this? Michelle, can you handle this? Beyonce, can you handle this? I don't think they can handle this!") and that sang only came out two years prior to this film. Yeah, I really need to take "Mr. S"'s rock history class! I love Joan Cusack in this movie; I love that scene where she's discipling that young girl and even when she's trying to be nice, she comes off as strict. She asks the girl if she wants a hug and the girl shrinks back and wails, "I promise I'll be good!"
After three weeks of getting the kids ready for the big day - they listen to rock music and watch videos of legendary guitarists and drummers to get inspired - things come crashing down the day before the Battle of the Bands, and also the day of Parents' Night when the real Schneebly is puzzled why he has a check from Horace Green and Dewey has to confess to him what he's been doing before Ned calls the school to say they made a mistake. Dewey has to make a presentation at Parents' Night and sees the police have come to pay him a visit because Patty got Ned to spill the beans about what's been going on and she called the cops on Dewey. All the parents are understandably concerned that an impostor has been posing as their children's substitute teacher and demand to get answers.
The kids know they've worked too hard and don't want to miss the competition so they get the bus driver to drive them to Dewey's apartment (how they know where he lived, I'm not sure!) and head to to the venue where the Battle of the Bands is being held. They make it just in time to set up and perform as they are performing after No Vacancy who is currently performing. Principal Mullins and the parents of the kids find out what's going on so they also go to the venue and demand to be let in, but the guy won't let them in without tickets. The guy who replaced Dewey in No Vacancy is wearing this leather shrug and after he performs he starts hitting on Principal Mullins and it is the most hilarious/awkward thing.
The School of Rock (the name of the band the groupie girls decided on) perform their song that Zach wrote. Originally they were going to perform an indulgent song that Dewey wrote, but he (rightly) decided that Zach's song was the right choice for them. All the parents and Principal Mullins and the audience love them and the song, so when No Vacancy wins the competition, everyone is dismayed except for one random dude who yells, "Yeah, No Vacancy!" The movie has a happy ending with Dewey and Ned starting their own "School of Rock" and teaching music lessons to kids.
For the ten year reunion of the movie in 2013, Jack Black and the kids (now in their early twenties!) performed the same song for a group in Austin, TX.
Here's the song from the movie:
And here it is being performed at the ten-year reunion....notice how Zach is shorter than Jack Black in the first video, but taller in this one, haha!