This seems to be a film that more people heard about than actually saw. It wasn’t exactly a smash hit, but everyone seems to at least know the premise: Jack Black goes to a school full of prim, privileged kids and makes a rock band out of them. Perhaps this is thanks in part to the success of the Rock School reality TV shows. In preparation for Black’s new vehicle for his rock band, Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny, I thought I’d watch this on the train. And it was a bit of fun, but there were some missed opportunities.
As an unashamed rock fan, I got a thrill out of seeing a rock geek who likes many of the same bands as I do (though he is far more single-minded about it) – just as I did in High Fidelity – and from hearing the classic tunes played either on a stereo or on guitar, from Led Zep’s Immigrant Song to Sabbath’s Iron Man. It wasn’t that funny, and Jack Black’s conniptions could only amuse so far, but it was charming, silly, affirming fun.
But there was one scene that showed how much more it could have been: at the auditions for the battle of the bands, the preteen drummer goes missing, having wandered off with one of the bands. Black’s character starts panicking. He’s in a position of responsibility and this kid has gone missing, his head full of ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law’ rock hedonism. Black finds him in a van playing cards with some band (a cameo I didn’t get?). He hauls the boy out and gives him a real dressing down. This is a pivotal moment in the script – at last we see the absurdity of being told to kick back against authority by an authority figure, no matter how idiosyncratic. We see that the man who’s lived his life in pursuit of the freedom of rock is now given responsibility and has to become what he so vociferously condemns, a spoiler of fun.
And then…it’s left like that. We have the expected but highly unlikely scenario of parents who feel their kids have been corrupted and abducted being won over by the power of ROCK, and a nice uplifting AC/DC song for the finale, but the only tantalising questions the whole film asked are left not only unanswered (can there be an answer?) but broached, acknowledged, then ignored. One irritating little frustration in an otherwise fun, superficial and spirited little movie.