School of Rock Gets 20th Anniversary SteelBook

L-R: Caitlin Hale, Maryam Hassan, Robert Tsai, Aleisha Allen, Jack Black Joey Gaydos Jr.,, Kevin Clark, Rivkah Reyes, and Miranda Cosgrove. School of Rock. Courtesy of Paramount.

Richard Linklater’s hit musical comedy, School of Rock, is now available on a 20th anniversary Limited Edition Blu-ray SteelBook.

Directors often say that animals and children are the hardest to direct. You wouldn’t know this from watching School of Rock. These are talented children and it shows throughout the entire 109-minute runtime. The film nails every single beat even during the scenes where Jack Black has both the energy and room to improvise. It’s not an understatement to say that Jack Black delivers an award-worthy performance in School of Rock. It isn’t just Jack Black missing out on a nomination but there isn’t an Original Song nomination for “School of Rock” either. You’d like to think things would be different today but there’s no guarantee.

Getting an opportunity to see the instant musical classic on the big screen during Thanksgiving weekend in 2003 was quite the experience. Obviously, the casting of Jack Black as Dewey Finn is what piqued my interest at the time of its release. But wow, this was a film that blew me away twenty years ago. I only wish I could have experienced the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival Gala world premiere screening at the Roy Thomson Hall. Going off of the Blu-ray bonus content, it must have been quite the evening! Anyway, this is the type of film that could inspire anyone to want to become a musician and play rock music. I’m something of an guitarist myself but we have The Beatles Anthology docuseries on ABC to thank for this.

Years before creating The White Lotus, Mike White penned the script for School of Rock. Little did he know that he was penning the biggest musical comedy until Pitch Perfect 2 hit the big screen in 2015. The film would later spawn a stage musical and three-season television series. But anyway, White’s script has a nice mix of rock and roll and comedy. If it didn’t premiere during TIFF, the comedy would have been right at home with a SXSW premiere. After all, director Richard Linklater has history with the city of Austin.

Jack Black in School of Rock.
Jack Black in School of Rock. Courtesy of Paramount.

The gist of the film is that Dewey Finn (Jack Black) gets fired from his band, No Vacancy, and then takes a job away from his roommate. When Horace Green principal Rosalie Mullins (Joan Cusack) asks for Ned Schneebly (Mike White), Dewey lies and takes a substitute teaching job at the prep school. He’s desperate for the money especially after Ned and his girlfriend, Patty Di Marco (Sarah Silverman) give him an ultimatum. Pay rent or move out. Teaching is just a job to him but then the lightbulbs start going off when Dewey hears them playing in their music class. The moment this happens is when Dewey decides to turn the class into a rock band. One by one, Dewey fills out the band: Zack Mooneyham (Joey Gaydos Jr.) on lead guitar, Freddy Jones (Kevin Clark) on drums, Katie (Rivkah Reyes) on bass, and Lawrence (Robert Tsai) on keyboards.

Turning the class into a rock band is easier said than done. For one, the school is very serious about its curriculum. There’s no way that Rosalie would allow a sub, long-term or short-term, to organize a field trip. Dewey bluffs his way into it, getting Rosalie drunk in the process. A few weeks later, she has no memory of it but he still has to be very careful in making sure nobody sees them leaving. It certainly helps with Summer Hathaway (Miranda Cosgrove) serving as the band manager. As the weeks go on, the band is helping students overcome their own anxiety or insecurity issues. That’s the power of music. The power of rock. Imagine standing up on a stage and rocking out before a crowd.

School of Rock incorporates a lot of rock songs into the film’s soundtrack. Beyond this, there are no shortage of song lyrics being quoted throughout the film. The biggest get was getting Led Zeppelin to sign off on the film using “Immigrant Song.” Black pitched them directly while on one of the stage sets and it paid off!

Can a class of fourth graders even win during the Battle of the Bands? You already know the answer if you’ve seen the film. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?!? Watch the film right now!

Thanks to Jack Black and a talented group of children, School of Rock is still a rocking good time twenty years after its theatrical release. How Jack Black did not receive an Oscar nomination for his work in the film is beyond me–he would definitely have among my top picks for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Bonus Features

  • Commentary by actor Jack Black and director Richard Linklater
  • Kids’ Kommentary
  • Lessons Learned on School of Rock
  • Jack Black’s Pitch to Led Zeppelin
  • School of Rock Music Video
  • Kids’ Video Diary: Toronto Film Festival
  • MTV’s Diary of Jack Black
  • Dewey Finn’s History of Rock
  • Theatrical Trailer

DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater
CAST: Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White, Sarah Silverman, Lee Wilkof, Kate McGregor-Stewart, Adam Pascal, Suzzanne Douglas, Miranda Cosgrove, Kevin Clark, Joey Gaydos Jr., Robert Tsai, Aleisha Allen, Brian Falduto, Caitlin Hale, Maryam Hassan

Paramount released School of Rock in theaters on October 3, 2003. Grade: 5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.