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PCR # 184  (Vol. 4, No. 40)  This edition is for the week of September 29--October 5, 2003.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"School of Rock"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Three stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Rush Limbaugh IS a Big Fat Idiot...Whatever Happened To..?....Who's Next?....Get Well....Passing On
 by Mike Smith
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Paramount Pictures     
Starring: Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White and Sarah Silverman
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 1 hour 48 mins

Gene Wilder in "The Producers." John Belushi in "Animal House." Michael Keaton in "Night Shift." Eddie Murphy in "48 Hours." What do these four performances have in common? They introduced the movie going public to a presence that would not be ignored. Sadly, Belushi died long before he should have, depriving film fans of years of memories. Wilder, Keaton and Murphy went on to become legends. With his performance in "School of Rock," I am happy to add the name of Jack Black to the above list.

Having stolen "High Fidelity" away from star John Cusack, Black fared well in "Shallow Hall" and "Orange County" (which, like "School of Rock," was written by costar Mike White). But it is in "School of Rock," where Black is allowed to literally explode off the screen.

Black stars as Dewey Finn, a rock and roll guitarist who is a rare breed: he does it for the music, not for the money. However, the rest of his band mates have their eye on the prize, which happens to be $20,000, at the local Battle of the Bands. Tired of Dewey's endless solos and stage diving (sadly, no one ever catches him), his pals kick him out of the band. Dejectedly, he heads home to the apartment he shares with his friend Ned, a substitute teacher. Not only does he need to find a new band, Ned informs him that the rent is due. A chance phone call finds him hired by a private school who thinks he is Ned. Put in charge of a group of 10 year olds, Dewey's teaching skills boil down to recess. All the time. This changes when he hears some of the children play in music class. And, like the Grinch before him, Dewey gets an idea. He will turn these youngsters into a band. But first, he will teach them.

In what could have been a lightweight version of "Kindergarten Cop meets Sister Act," "School of Rock" rises to the top thanks to Black. As part of the popular musical duo Tenacious D, Black certainly knows his way around rock and roll. But it is the scenes in which he tries to explain to his charges the history of the music he loves that makes the film so enjoyable. Not only does he diagram his favorite bands on the black board, his homework consists of listening to classic rock CD's. "Make sure you listen to the keyboard solo on "Roundabout," he tells the young pianist, handing him a YES disc. Watching him run around the class room, guitar in hand, encouraging the kids to write a song, Black exhausts himself, and the audience, with his frantic ways. Cusack, who excels at playing high strung women, does a fine job as the principal of the school, all rules and regulations until Dewey buys her a beer and plays some Stevie Nicks. The final band battle, featuring Black in a school uniform which screams out as a tribute to AC/DC guitarist Angus Young, is an even greater showcase when you realize that these youngsters are playing their own music! I've dabbled with the guitar for more then 20 years, and I can honestly say that Joey Gaydos, who plays lead guitar player Zach, makes me look like I've never picked the darn thing up!

It's always a pleasure to say you were there when a star first shines. It was my pleasure to see "School of Rock." On a scale of zero to four stars I give it  One and a half stars

This week's movie review of "School of Rock" is ©2003 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2003, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.