THE SCHOOL OF ROCK
Region 2 (UK) Edition
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 has English subtitles, as do the
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
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
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
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
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.