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Film / School of Rock

"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 is set to premiere on Nickelodeon later in 2015, despite the original film not being very kid-friendly. There is also a Broadway musical adaptation going into previews in the fall of 2015.

Tropes Used

  • 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.
  • 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 "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.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: See Credits Gag below.
  • 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.
  • 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 Representative: 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: 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.
  • 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.
    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.
  • 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 Man Child, 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."
  • 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 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/Dumbass Has a Point: Dewey is quite correct to tell Freddy that "Rock ain't about gettin' loaded and acting like a jerk."
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Dewey.
  • Just Testing You: A Running Gag.
  • Large Ham: Jack Black...what did you expect?
  • 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.
  • Man Child: Dewey. He's an immature slacker who has no life outside of rock; however, it helps him find a common language with kids.
  • 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.
  • 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 during the parents evening. 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.
  • 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
  • "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!!"
  • Recycled In Space: Mr. Holland's Opus...with a really bad teacher.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Serious Business: Dewey: "One great rock show can change the world."
  • 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.
    • There's also this sneaky homage to Black's Channel 101 series Computer Man.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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)".

Alternative Title(s): School Of Rock