Region 2 (UK) Edition

DirectorRichard Linklater

Starring:  Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White, Sarah Silverman

Loser gets fired from his band, but falls into a job teaching school kids about rock 'n' roll.


Whichever way you slice it, this broad and affable comedy stands or falls on whether or not you like its star, Jack Black. Black, who paid his dues in theatre and with small supporting roles in relatively high profile films like Bob Roberts, Waterworld and Mars Attacks!, made an impression in the film adaptation of High Fidelity, where he gave a film-stealing performance as the music-obsessed record store clerk Barry. Since then his star has been in the ascendancy, both as leading man (in the Farrelly Brothers' Shallow Hal, for example), and as a performer in his band, Tenacious D.

It seems unlikely, though, that any other Jack Black film will benefit more from the synergy between the character and the performer than this one. The role of Dewey Finn was written with Black in mind, and it's hard to imagine another performer in the role. Black is allowed free rein for his gurning shtick here, so if he irritates you at all, this isn't the film for you.

The film avoids many of the pitfalls you might imagine if you had a passing acquaintance with the story: the kids aren't overly cute, and things don't end up the way you think they will. The script is sharp and funny; the performances are sincere; and the music is terrific. It's a movie about kids that adults will enjoy, too.

Incidentally, during the commentary tracks and bonus materials there's some debate whether the film is called School of Rock or The School of Rock. The 'official' title, used on the poster, and in studio documentation, is School of Rock, but the on-screen title is actually The School of Rock, (perhaps if only because it appears as part of an elaborate tracking shot that would have cost a lot of money to fix or remount).


Universal's Region 2 DVD presents the film in 16:9-enhanced 1.78:1 ratio, which is slightly different from it's 1.85:1 theatrical ratio, but the difference is negligible. The transfer is just fine. The film is shot in naturalistic style. Contrast levels, colour balance and sharpness are all adequate. Scenes with intense lighting generally work best, though, especially the concert scenes, which have vibrant colours. The transfer reflects the film's modest origins (it was made for about $20m). The cinematography isn't the film's strongest aspect.

The transfer displays some film grain, but certainly no more than you'd expect, or should tolerate. The image is rarely as detailed as it perhaps should be: this is particularly evident with fabrics and similar textures, perhaps indicating some filtering to keep the required bitrate down.

Detail levels aren't impressive, but there are no signs of excessive artificial edge-enhancement, either. There are practically no instances of dirt or other unpleasant artefacts. A few shots exhibit aliasing artefacts (jagged edges on diagonal lines), but these are usually fleeting. The average bitrate is an unimpressive 6.1Mb/s, rarely dipping as low as 4Mb/s.

There are no player-generated captions in the film.

The film has English subtitles, as do the bonus materials.

The layer change (at 72'54" into the film) is cleverly chosen, and virtually invisible.

The disc has animated menu screens, in the style of a notice board

The disc offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack (at 448kbps). Aside from the music set-pieces, there's not much to get excited about. Most of the film is firmly anchored to the front speaker array, and to the centre channel in particular. Dialogue is clear, and the mix is generally transparent. When it's needed, though, there's plenty of energy, and the music sequences offer good separation and fidelity, and even some hefty bass support on the .1 channel.


The film is supported by two commentary tracks.

The first is by Jack Black and Richard Linklater. Both seem focussed on the task at hand, and, although you'll not feel like you've been privy to the nitty-gritty of the production process, you'll have learned about the film's origins (it was a project written for Black by Scott Rudin, and Linklater was brought on board later), and how the two approached their task, and what they were aiming for.

The second commentary, the Kids' Kommentary, is, as the title suggests, by a number of the child actors featured in the film. Their insights aren't profound, but their perspective is interesting. Apart from one or two instances, they seem to be on the best behaviour. If you dislike overly-serious child actors, you might be advised to skip this commentary.

Lessons Learned in School of Rock (24m) is a good, well-structured, fly-on-the-wall documentary featuring interviews with many members of the cast and crew. There's also a satisfying amount of behind-the-scenes footage. It's obvious from both that Black had a respect for and rapport with the children, which is evident in the finished film. You might expect that the child performers were chosen for their acting chops, but in fact they were primarily chosen for their genuine musical abilities (some of them had to adapt their classical training to play rock 'n' roll).

Jack's Pitch To Led Zeppelin (4m) is a short featurette showing how the production persuaded Led Zeppelin to allow them to use their 1970 classic Immigrant Song. The moral of the story? Don't be too proud to beg.

School of Rock Music Video (4m) is a promotional music video, featuring clips from the film interwoven with especially-shot footage featuring Jack Black and some of the other cast members.

Kids' Video Diary: Toronto Film Festival (8m) A report on the opening night of the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival, which opened with a gala performance of School of Rock, attended by the kids, their adoring moms, and other cast members. Includes footage from the press conference.

MTVs Diary of Jack Black (sic) (17m) August the 16th 2003, as experienced by Jack Black. This doesn't have much to do with the film, but Black fans will no doubt get a kick out of it.

Theatrical Trailer (2m) A trailer from when the film was still officially The School of Rock.

The UK disc is missing an unrelated VH1 Save the Music public service announcement, trailers for Paycheck and The Stepford Wives, and a DVD-Rom supplement which features a rock family tree-type feature.


The film is charming, but steers clear of cute and avoids cliché.

The transfer is unspectacular, but generally acceptable. The audio is un-ambitious, but kicks in when it matters.

The bonus materials are a mixed bunch. The Lessons Learned in the School of Rock covers most of the bases, but the Kids' Video Diary is disposable, especially if it was included at the expense of any deleted scenes. (At least one sequence, involving a character played by Sex and the City semi-regular Amy Sedaris,  was shot, but is missing. Sedaris now barely appears in the finished film.

The UK disc is broadly similar to the Region 1 version, and the US disc's additional feature are certainly not worth making much of an effort for.











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