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Movie Review:

"School of Rock"

Spent part of this NLCS travel day seeing a movie, and this one came highly recommended by several people, and the critics loved it, and darned if they're not all correct.

At first glance this looks kind of stupid: Jack Black, who was so good in "Shallow Hal", plays a down-and-out rock musician ridiculously named Dewey Finn who seems mired in the '70s; he does stupid stage stunts, can't really sing, and his band hates him, even though he was the band's founder.

So when he's fired, his roommate and the roommate's snippy girlfriend (Sarah Silverman, ex of Saturday Night Live) try to throw him out because he owes them thousands of dollars in rent and he has no job.

Then the happy coincidence that fires the plot happens; a phone call comes in for the roommate (even more preposterously named Ned Schneebly) to be a long-term substitute teacher at an expensive prep school, so Dewey impersonates him and takes the job.

At first it seems really stupid: the kids (who are aged anywhere from about 8 to 12) seem pretentious and boring and Dewey hates them and hates school itself.

But then he brings his love of music and rock into class, and begins teaching the kids the history of rock music, how a band is formed, and brings out special talents in each of them. The actors playing the kids are so natural, and you can probably feel something of yourself in each of them. And as Dewey teaches them, he learns something about himself.

The principal of the school is played beautifully by the multitalented Chicago native Joan Cusack, who seems almost too skinny here (so many of her roles have been as the chubby-but-adorable woman who just can't get a man), but her pinched-tight lips and pinched-tight voice are perfect for this role, even as we see Dewey try to open her up and show her real personality.

Dewey's old band is performing at a "Battle of the Bands" and so Dewey's plan is to get the students to become his new band and win that contest. I won't ruin the plot by telling you how it comes out, only that the performance is a winner, and many people learn a lot about themselves after it's all over.

This is not only a very funny movie, but thoughtful and sweet, and Jack Black's frenetic performance makes it a must-see.

AYRating: *** 1/2