Review by John Larkin
SCHOOL OF ROCK Limited Edition Blu-Ray Steelbook is available at retailers everywhere.
I think it's easy to make the argument that SCHOOL OF ROCK (2003) is Richard Linklater's most popular and enduring film to date. While DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993) tends to garner the most notoriety and praise in his filmography, SCHOOL OF ROCK is one of those films that when brought up, attracts no negative reaction. In the twenty years since the films release I have met numerous people of varying ages and from all walks of life, that have a special place in their heart for the film. The popularity is so wide-ranging that it even spawned a popular Broadway musical that ran from 2015-2019.
The role of Dewey Finn played by Jack Black was written specifically for him by screenwriter Mike White - now more popular than ever, as the sole creator of HBO's hit series WHITE LOTUS. Mike White was Jack Black's neighbor in an apartment complex and witnessed Black running around singing rock classics and playing air guitar similar to his character in the film. The truth is, despite the solid screenplay and Linklater's always humane sensibilities as a director, the film wouldn't work in the slightest without Jack Black and his antics tearing up every scene. I realized while rewatching, that it was really this film alone that cemented his indelible personality on our culture's psyche as the recognizable comedic presence that he is today.
As wonderful and always entertaining as Black is here, he's backed by a memorable ensemble of young actors as the students, led by Miranda Cosgrove who went onto fame with the hit Disney show iCARLY, that has recently spawned a revival version of the show.
Several of the student actors didn't continue to pursue acting and one (Kevin Clark) was tragically killed in 2021 when he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle.
Upon the film's original theatrical release in 2003 me and a high school friend of mine went to check it out at our local movie theater, the REGAL NEW ROCK IMAX in New Rochelle, New York. When the film ended, we exited the theater and happened to pass the poster on the way out of the complex. As we took a moment to observe the poster, a young red haired boy walked up to us and said, "You know I was in that!" We stared down at him dubiously. Seeing clearly the suspicion etched across our faces he continued "Yea yea I'm the one in the front row on the very right, Marco, "Carrot Top".
Sure enough we later realized it was indeed him, actor and now music producer James Hosey. SCHOOL OF ROCK had been shot nearby in Staten Island, New York and Rahway, New Jersey and I later discovered Hosey was a last minute casting replacement for another actor that had dropped out.
After twenty years the film is just as funny, endearing and charming as it was upon release. With the exception of one scene - a big pedophilia joke during a pivotal moment in the film that would never fly today, nor does it quite come off as funny as the filmmakers may have wanted it to. I forget if my theater audience laughed at it back in 2003.
Among the extras on the blu-ray disc are some great but expected items: a fun directors commentary by Jack Black and Richard Linklater, a music video and some other featurettes - but my personal favorite is a clip of Jack Black begging the band Led Zeppelin to allow Linklater to use their song "Immigrant Song" in the film. Led Zeppelin is notoriously strict when it comes to allowing people to use their music in films ands so Linklater, proactively asked Black to make a grand plea on camera while their were shooting one of the concert scenes in the film. In the clip Black stands on stage clutching the microphone while sweat pours down from him, begging Led Zeppelin for permission to use their song for the film. In the background, hundreds of audience extras cheer him on as Black pumps them up. Well, the stunt worked and Zeppelin allowed them to "get the Led out" and use "Immigrant Song" in the film. You can watch the clip below:
As much as this a stellar release, I only wish it had been a 4K UHD transfer. SCHOOL OF ROCK is officially an enduring classic that holds up after twenty years and deserves further TLC in the physical media realm down the road. Until then, you can pick up this great new blu-ray Steelbook to add to your collection.