Film / School of Rock

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"I pledge allegiance to the band of Mr. Schneebly..."

School of Rock is a 2003 comedy directed by Richard Linklater (an icon of the American independent film scene going more mainstream) and starring Jack Black and Joan Cusack.

Dewey Finn (Black) is a rock musician whose Control Freak tendencies, among other things, get him kicked out of the band he founded. After some time of doing nothing, it becomes apparent that he had better find another job to pay the rent.

As it happens, an elite private school in the area has an opening for a teacher. Receiving a phone call intended for his apartment roommate, Ned Schneebly (Mike White), Dewey fakes his roommate's identity and gets hired. He takes the job initially planning to do as little as possible, but soon discovers that the kids have musical talent. After that, he changes his plans drastically, turning the class entirely into a music class about the history of rock, and preparing his kids to enter a band contest and beat his old band.

The film received rave reviews from critics and the public alike, and is still one of Black's most well known roles to this day. In fact, Jack Black is on the record as saying the role is his favorite of his career, as well as the closest to his actual personality.

A television series based on the film premiered on Nickelodeon in 2016, despite the original film not being very kid-friendly. There is also a Broadway musical adaptation that opened in the fall of 2015.

Tropes Used in the Film

  • Adult Fear: For the parents, learning that a random stranger impersonated a substitute teacher at their kids' private school, used them for a private music project and later on took them for a "field trip". While the parents are micromanagers, their Mass "Oh, Crap!" reaction is understandable. Fortunately for them Dewey underwent Character Development.
  • As You Know: Ms. Mullins says this verbatim when telling the teachers in the staff room how important the upcoming parent/teacher night is.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Lawrence.
  • Battle of the Bands: The plot revolves around Dewey entering the kids in one to beat his old band. They lose, but still win the audience's adoration.
  • Becoming the Mask: Dewey eventually does start to care for his students and winds up becoming the teacher of an after-school program called, you guessed it, The School of Rock.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": After Dewey is exposed as an impostor and he and Patty argue in the flat, Ned gets fed up of their arguing and yells at them to shut up three times.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Dewey gets two. The first is during the auditions for Battle of the Bands after Summer tells him another band invited Freddy out to their van. The second is a scene or so later when he's told the auditions are over.
  • Blithe Spirit: Dewey.
  • Book Ends: Dewey is performing at a concert both at the start and end of the film. and performs a stage dive at each one.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: See Credits Gag below.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Dewey is a talented guitarist and dreams of being a rock star, but has no other job and no desire to get one, mooching off Ned for years, according to himself. It's only when Patty threatens to kick him out that he decides to do something about it and pay Ned the money he owes him, even if only for Ned's sake.
  • Camp Gay: Billy, the boy placed in charge of designing their costumes, has these mannerisms. Reportedly, the character wasn't written this way. However, the director saw that playing up the stereotypes would bring in laughs. As a result, screenwriter Mike White (an open bisexual with a gay father) disowned the final film.
  • The Cameo: If you've never heard of these guys, you'll miss it, but The Mooney Suzuki are briefly seen backstage at the battle of the bands. Sammy James Jr., the lead singer, co-wrote the song "School of Rock" for the movie along with Mike White.
  • Cassandra Truth: Shortly before Parents' Night, Dewey admits to Ms. Mullins that he's not a real teacher. Ms. Mullins thinks Dewey is just suffering a lapse in self-confidence and tries to encourage him.
  • Character Development: Dewey goes from a selfish Manchild to a Team Dad and a Cool Teacher who learns from the kids how to compromise on the band stuff, which was what got him fired from No Vacancy in the first place.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Parents' Night is mentioned, Dewey promptly forgets about it and does his own thing... and then half an hour later the plot element comes to fruition. And because he hasn't been planning, during that intervening half hour of plot, Hilarity Ensues.
    • Could also be considered foreshadowing, as the principal stresses how important it is.
  • Child Prodigy: All of the children have some exceptional talent that Dewey uses to help the band out (i.e Billy with costume designing, Tomika with singing) but Gordon and Summer are the most traditional examples, Gordon with computers and Summer with organisational skills.
    • This could be a Reality Subtext as applied to the kids in the "band." The actors who play bass, guitar, and drums all started musical training exceptionally early.
  • Class Whatever: Summer. Complains when told that the class no longer has to do any schoolwork.
  • Clown Car: Somehow Dewey manages to pack the entire class, plus instruments, into his van.
    • Actually, he fits eight children into the van, to go to the audition. One or two in the front, depending on the shot, and the rest crammed into the back. Still a tight fit, but possible. Only one guitar appears to have gone with them. Maybe they were going to borrow instruments there? At the end, they've rented a bus for the entire class.
  • Cool Loser: Freddy seems to be openly despised by most of his fellow students except Frankie, but it's likely justified in that he's a wannabe tough guy and the only "cool kid" (a term used very loosely here) in a class full of nerds.
  • Cool Teacher: What Dewey eventually becomes.
  • Crack Defeat: The kids get beaten by No Vacancy (which just so happens to be the band that fired Dewey at the beginning of the movie), despite the entire crowd going crazy during their performance. They one-up the winners though, because the audience wants an encore.
  • Credits-Brand Products: The open credits appear as various posters and on people's shirts in the bar.
  • Credits Gag: The movie ends with the characters' band playing a new song, the credits rolling through in front of them. Near the end of the credits Jack Black points them out claiming "I do not know that guy!" in song.
    • New song in terms. They're improvising over AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)", which they started to play at their Battle of the Bands encore, and rolled into the final scene.
    • On TBS, the credits don't appear in the final scene (they are replaced with a Credits Pushback afterwards), ruining the gag.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Summer who is initially snotty and stuck up, only concerned with her grades but comes to be friends with her classmates.
    • Also Ms. Mullins, who starts out very prim, but warms to Dewey (and Spider).
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Dewey telling the kid's parents what he taught their kids goes something like this: "Math, science, uh.. geography, Latin, Spanish, French, Latin... Did I say math already?"
    • Also, "It will test your head, and your mind, and your brain."
  • Despair Event Horizon: Dewey falls into this late into the movie. See "The Reason The World Sucks" below. He gets better.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Dewey is quite correct to tell Freddy that "Rock ain't about gettin' loaded and acting like a jerk."
  • Dumb Is Good: Subverted with Summer. Her intelligence is presented as annoying at first but it ends up helping Dewey and the band out on several occasions and she ends up as band manager because she's much more competent than Dewey.
  • E = MC Hammer: Dewey writes E = mc^2 on the board while pretending to teach the children something. Played with slightly in that he is totally clueless about teaching and this was presumably the only vaguely mathematical formula he could remember, and Mullins doesn't bat an eyelid when she walks into the room, even though the children are preteens.
  • Epic Fail: Dewey's stage dive at the beginning. He knocks glasses out of a guy's hand and lands on the floor.
    Dewey:: Whoa, nobody caught me. That was lame.
  • Everybody Owns a Ford: All the parents' cars are Volvos. Probably done for laughs, not Product Placement, unless Volvo itself has a sense of humor about its stereotypical owners.
  • Every One Chasing You: After the parents take one of Dewey's remarks literally, see That Came Out Wrong below.
  • Expy: Jack Black is playing his very character from Tenacious D, only without the constant swearing as the movie is PG-13.
  • Extreme Doormat: Ned, until he finally stands up to Patty.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Zack's dad. He comes across as overbearing, and doesn't allow him to play the electric guitar, thinking it a waste of time.
  • Filming For Easy Dub: Instead of Jack Black, it's a guitar. In the climax of the film, Jack breaks out a guitar solo, but his guitar NEVER faces the camera, so you don't see the necessary hand movements to perform said solo. Possibly Lampshaded afterwards by Mullins asking him if that was really him playing. (It wasn't — the DVD commentaries reveal Jack Black doesn't really play electric guitar that wellnote . Most of the guitar playing his character did was actually him miming to a pre-recorded guitar track. He does occasionally play himself, though, such as when teaching Zack the riff to "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple.)
  • Foreshadowing:
    • No Vacancy removes Dewey from the band for being a Large Ham and It's All About Me. Without him, they end up winning The Battle of the Bands.
    • Ned tells Dewey in their first scene together that if Dewey thinks Ned's job's so easy, he should try it. Come Dewey answering a call meant for Ned a few scenes later from Horace Green, and guess what happens.
    • Dewey reiterates that one great rock show can change the world. The kids' show ends up changing their parents' mind, and Ms. Mullins while furious with Dewey tells him So Proud of You.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: At one point, during the rock class montage, Dewey draws a flowchart on the blackboard with the ramifications of rock and important bands. Pausing the disc reveals how accurate the whole thing actually is.
  • From the Mouths of Babes: Dewey has priceless reactions on the words of the preteen kids. Summer's "I read about groupies, they're sluts!" and Alicia's "I say let's get out of here and do the damn show" are famous examples.
    Dewey: What are the good things when you're in the rock band?
    Eleni: Getting wasted?
    Dewey: (bewildered) What? N...No!
  • Girlish Pigtails: Marta, one of the back-up singers. She had them braided and below the jaw line in a dreary, bored fashion (the dull uniform doesn't help), until the very end at their concert where they're high up and loose.
  • Goggles Do Nothing: Freddy wears a pair during the Battle of the Bands, most likely for Rule of Cool.
  • Graceful Loser: The kids take getting second place at the Battle of the Bands far better than Dewey, who honestly just wanted to one-up his former bandmates. Dewey eventually joins in their sentiment that they put on a good show, especially when the audience calls for an encore.
    Freddy: Rock isn't about getting an A. The Sex Pistols never won anything.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Ms. Mullins. Just add "Edge of Seventeen" as BGM.
  • Henpecked Husband: Ned is a henpecked boyfriend - he isn't married, but he's a complete pushover who is domineered by his overbearing girlfriend.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Summer. You didn't expect Miranda to sing badly, do you?
    • The DVD commentaries tell us (and prove to us) that she actually sings really well, and she had to be taught how to sing badly.
  • Hidden Depths: Dewey is a slacker and a Manchild, but he takes his ambitions to become a rock star completely seriously, as evidenced by his use of theory terms when teaching the kids "Smoke On The Water."
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick: Summer once Dewey makes her the band manager. And she keeps the position when the band becomes an after-school program.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Ned's girlfriend claims he should stand up for himself, yet when she berates him for not doing so, he comes off as the bullied boyfriend. He does stand up for himself finally, when he slams the door on her.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: The kids' Bad "Bad Acting" for their "fatal illnesses" to get them into the Battle of the Bands.
  • Insult Backfire: Frankie says "Ms. Mullins, you're The Man" and she replies "Thank you, Frankie" without knowing what they really mean. Frankie's snickering regardless of Ms. Mullins' response indicates that this was meant to be a Stealth Insult.
  • It's All About Me: Dewey at the beginning of the film. Overcoming it is part of his Character Development.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": One-shot joke. "Actually, it's Shnay-blay."
  • Jerkass: Patty. She even talks down to Ned at times.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Patty is quite correct in telling off Dewey for impersonating Ned. He technically committed fraud and took money that Ned could have gotten.
    • Dewey also towards Patty for calling the cops on him at the school, not for his sake but for the kids, in that he wasn't able to tell the parents how great their kids were at music once the police outed him. It says something that during their fight Ned drops his Extreme Doormat personality and shouts at both of them.
    • The parents have a right to be concerned when they find out that a random stranger was posing as a substitute teacher and using their kids as musicians in a concert, even though their mass berating of Ms. Mullins causes her to have a minor breakdown.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Dewey. He's Brilliant, but Lazy, has been mooching off Ned for years and has no desire to get a real job. He also impersonates Ned just to he can avoid getting knocked out, which comes back to bite him later. He's also still a good friend to Ned by promising to pay him the money he owes him and urges him to dump Patty (for Ned's sake as well as his own), brings out the musical talent in the kids he teaches, tries to sort out some of their self-esteem issues and apologises to the kids later that he used them for his own means.
  • Just Testing You: A Running Gag.
  • Karma Houdini: Dewey for impersonating Ned, even though the cops were called on him and Ned politely tells him to move out before the battle of the bands. The kids still come to rock in the after-school program, which allows him to fulfill his dreams while helping them out even though they lost the Battle of the Bands. This is justified in that Ned doesn't press charges against Dewey and leaves Patty.
  • Large Ham: Jack Black... what did you expect?
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Along with a handful of Hoist by His Own Petard. Patty berates Ned a lot and insults him for not sticking up for himself. Needless to say, Ned eventually has enough and walks out on her.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Exploited by Summer, who gets all the kids to act as though they are all terminal in order to earn them a spot at the Battle of the Bands.
  • The Man: Ms. Mullins (a hot, sexy, female man). Later subverted — she actually only became tightly-wounded because she feels powerless against the constant, strident demands of over-protective parents.
  • Manchild: Dewey. He's an immature slacker who has no life outside of rock; however, it helps him find a common language with kids.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Patty and Ned. At least, until Ned finally has enough of Patty.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The parents in the climax when after chewing out Ms. Mullins she has to tell them with a Broken Smile, "I've just been informed that all your children are missing."
  • Meaningful Echo: "One great rock show can change the world." Dewey says this to Freddy after another band invite him out to their van at the Battle of the Band auditions. Freddy repeats this line to Dewey to convince him to join them at Battle of the Bands.
  • Meddling Parents: All of the kids have them. In fairness, Horace Green is a high-profile school.
  • Medium Awareness/No Fourth Wall: Only during the credits.
  • Mistaken for Pedophile: "I have been touched by your kids...and I'm pretty sure I've touched them."
  • Mouthy Kid: Freddy. Dewey had to save his skin at one point.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. Dewey is in the men's room standing at a urinal when he hears the kids playing their instruments in music class.
  • Nothing but Hits: The soundtrack contains classic rock by the boatload. Justified, as they are used to teach the kids how to rock.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Dewey twice during the parents evening. The first one comes when he sees the police outside the classroom, and realising they were called on him. The second one comes after the pun that makes the parents think he is a paedophile The look on his face says it all. Right before a Screw This, I'm Outta Here! moment.
    • The substitute teacher who comes in the next day and finds her charges missing, because they've gone to the Battle of the Bands. She runs around frantically wondering where they are.
  • Papa Wolf: After seeing their kids perform a killer song at the Battle of the Bands, Lawrence and Zack's dads lead the chant, "SCHOOL OF ROCK, SCHOOL OF ROCK!" when No Vacancy wins the prize and the twenty thousand dollar check.
  • Pass the Popcorn: Ned at the climax decides that, after the kids pick up Dewey and convince him to do the Battle of the Bands with them, to go and see the show, even inviting Patty along. He may as well see where the ride ends, having seen the tail end of it. He's disappointed along with the crowd when No Vacancy wins.
  • Product Placement: Most of the instruments in this movie are made by Gibson, Although some from other companies like Fender and Washburn show up as well. Also, all of the parents' cars, as seen a few times, are Volvos.
  • The Power of Rock
  • Precision F-Strike: Courtesy of Alicia after Dewey is outed as a fraud and the kids are stuck in school the day they're supposed to perform: "I say let's get out of here and do the damn show".
  • "The Reason The World Sucks" Speech:
    "Here's a useful lesson for ya: Give up. Just quit. Because in this life, you can't win. Oh yeah, you can try. But in the end you're just gonna lose big time! Because the world is run by The Man! The Man oh you don't know the Man? Oh, he's everywhere! In the White House, down the hall Ms. Mullins, she's the Man. And the Man ruined the ozone; and he's burning down The Amazon; and he kidnapped Shamu and put her in a chlorine tank! And there used to be a way to stick it to the Man, it was called rock 'n roll. But guess what? Oh no, the Man ruined that too, with a little thing called MTV! So don't waste your time trying to make anything cool, or pure, or awesome, 'cause the Man is just gonna call you a fat, washed-up loser, and crush your soul! So do yourselves a favor, and just GIVE UP!!"
  • Reality Ensues:
    • At the audition for Battle of the Bands, Dewey is furious to find he and the kids have gotten there too late, and when he talks to the man in charge, he throws a chair, gets in his face and shouts at him. The man in charge simply tells his assistant to call security and have them thrown out.
    • A rock band of children competes in the Battle of Bands with professional musicians. They don't win - the reward for the first place goes to Dewey's old band.
  • Recycled In Space: Mr. Holland's Opus...with a really bad teacher.
  • The Roadie: The various classmates who did not become a part of the band were assigned the roles of roadies and groupies (albeit a PG-rated equivalent).
  • Rock'n'Roll Teacher: Dewey.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: A lot of the kids' costumes during the climactic show end up looking like this.
  • Sassy Black Girl: Alicia.
  • Save Our Students: Played with. The kids didn't really need saving, but a fair few of them come out happier than they ever were. Lawrence, Freddie and Zack agree that even though "Mr. S" lied to them and used them for a rock show, their three weeks of "vacation" weren't a waste of time.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Not long after this line by Dewey: "I have been touched by your kids. And I'm pretty sure I've touched them." Coupled with Oh, Crap! and That Came Out Wrong.
    • Ned eventually has enough of Patty berating him one time too many when he decides he wants to go to the Battle of the Bands to see Dewey perform. While she's in mid-sentence, he simply rolls his eyes and storms out, slamming the door on her.
  • Second Place Is for Winners: Sure, Dewey's old band wins the 20,000 dollar check and first prize, but the kids's parents and Ms. Mullins are blown away by their performance, ensuring that they will continue to rock together, and the audience asks them to come out for an encore song.
  • Serious Business: Dewey: "One great rock show can change the world." Freddie even names the trope later on in the climax.
  • She's All Grown Up: All of the kids at a reunion concert.
  • Shout-Out: Possibly with Freddy, his last name is Jones. Although when most people think of a Freddy (Freddie) associated with rock, they might think of Queen. And maybe (Steve) Jones.
    • In one scene, Dewie is heard jamming on the theme song to Jack Black's Channel 101 web show Computerman.
    • The "rock moves" including the arm-pinwheels from The Who and the top hat, worn by both Slash and Alice Cooper.
    • Dewey's school uniform at the Battle of the Bands is a shout-out to Angus Young.
      • As is the Gibson SG he is holding on the cover image.
    • The cover itself is a Shout-Out to Rolling Stone, as it looks exactly like one of their covers.
    • Dewey's improvised song about math ends with him calling nine "a magic number." And The Beatles had a pretty famous "number nine," if not a magical one.
    • The poster for the movie has "We don't need no education" (a line from "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2" by Pink Floyd) and "Come on feel the noize" (a reference to the song "Cum On Feel the Noize" by Slade). "Accept no substitutes" on the poster is a reference to the Delaney & Bonnie album Accept No Substitute.
  • The Slacker: Dewey.
  • Something-itis: Dewey Finn says the children are suffering from "stick-it-to-the-man-eosis" to win the sympathy of the Battle of the Bands judges.
  • Spiky Hair: Freddie adopts this style when he discovers punk music.
  • Stepford Smiler: Ms. Mullins is an arguable inversion as she is forced to act like a strict authority figure when inside she longs to be able to have fun and be funny. She still fits the basic trope, though, as she puts on a face of being together and happy in her job when deep down, she's suffering. The mask breaks when the parents chew her out in the climax, and she puts herself in the corner on the stairwell.
  • Stealth Insult: Dewie telling Ned that he'll "throw [him] and [his] dog a bone" while gesturing to Patty at first sounds like a pun until you remember that "dog" is also an extremely rude term for an ugly woman.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: Dewey's line to Theo while flipping him off: "Read between the lines, Theo. Read between the LINES!"
  • Take That!: There was one against Meg White of The White Stripes, for her minimalistic drumming style.
    • And the above quoted slam against MTV.
      • This is particularly funny when the movie itself is played on the aforementioned channel.
    • To Andrew Lloyd Webber, when one of the girls auditions by singing "Memories" and Dewey cuts her off. Becomes a Take That Me with the stage version, which Webber himself produced and composed for.
  • That Came Out Wrong: When Dewey is trying to explain to the parents of his students about how what he's doing is good, and says "I have been touched by your kids...and I'm pretty sure I've touched them." Cue horrified looks all around, and cut to Dewey running through the halls, with the parents chasing after him.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Dewey all but names the trope at the start of the film when he says he will pay Ned and Patty when No Vacancy wins Battle of the Bands. Also, at the end of the same scene when Ned pressures him to pay him at least some of the money he owes him, Dewey agrees to do it if only for Ned.
    • The Battle of the Band officials do this to Dewey and the kids by allowing them to play because they believe the kids to be terminally ill.
  • Title Drop: It's the name of the band, repeated with great emphasis by Jack Black. It's also the name of the song the band plays at the Battle of the Bands.
  • Waxing Lyrical: When Dewey is trying to bluff his way through a conversation with teachers while posing as a substitute, starts reciting snatches from Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All". Someone asks "Isn't that a song?", and he denies it.
    • His Rousing Speech concludes ""We roll tonight to the guitar bite, and for those about to rock, I salute you", from AC/DC's "For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)".
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Played with. At the Battle of the Bands, School of Rock wow the crowd with Zack's song, but Dewey's old band, No Vacancy, end up winning. The kids tell Dewey they did a good show regardless of whether they won or not, and the crowd then start chanting the band's name, making Dewey realise the crowd wants an encore.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Dewey to all of the kids, at some point or another, and in the climax they return the favor by encouraging him to do the show with them:
    • He comforts Tomika when she suffers an internal crisis about performing because she's self-conscious about her weight and looks.
    • Dewey towards Freddie when another band wants to recruit him for the auditions.

Tropes For the Stage Play

  • Adaptation Expansion: The show goes deeper into the backgrounds of the kids (i.e. Billy comes from a family of masculine football players, Freddy's dad constantly berates for not doing as well as his classmates, etc.)
  • Adaptational Heroism: In "You're in the Band" Dewey allows the kids who aren't instrumentalists to volunteer for the non-music positions, and makes Summer the manager instead of giving her the role to placate her.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: Tomika's parents were her biological mother and father in the movie, but are a gay couple in the show (although, presumably, either​ could be her biological parent).
  • Adults Are Useless: The "Listen" song features several of the kids trying to communicate with their parents, who are too wrapped up with other matters to notice.
  • Ascended Extra: Billy is more prominent here and gets a "Billy Elliot" Plot.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Averted for Summer, since all of the kids are singing at Broadway professional levels. Dewey makes her the manager off the bat since he recognizes her smarts.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: Ms. Mullins for Dewey. She even stops him from being arrested for fraud by claiming he's a music instructor at the school.
  • Spit Take: Dewey when he realizes that parent/teacher night is the same night as the battle of the bands.
  • When She Smiles: Both Zack and Freddie after they realize they can play rock music have gigantic, awed grins on their faces.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: In "You're in the Band," Dewey convinces a nervous Lawrence that he can play the keyboard. Lawrence protests that he can't because he only has classical training, but Dewey has him try out a riff, which he sails through with ease.

Alternative Title(s): School Of Rock

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/SchoolOfRock