It’s hard to image that it’s already been a decade since Jack Black stormed into our hearts and that classroom in Richard Linklater’s School of Rock as Dewey Finn, a wannabe rock star who steals a substitute teaching gig meant for his roommate when he gets booted from his band and threatened with eviction in the same day. And though he may not have known a single damn thing about teaching “the boring subjects,” he certainly knew a thing or two about the important things in life: rock music and sticking it to anyone who thinks they’re better than you.
Though ten years have passed, and those children are all about 20 years old now, the best songs and moments from the film still hold up as strong as ever. For those about to rock, we salute you.
You’re Not Hardcore Unless You Live Hardcore
Dewey Finn’s first example to his students of how much he rocks is one of his greatest songs in the flick. “The Legend of the Rent,” a powerful, passionate ballad that he wrote after getting kicked out of his band and told by his roommate’s girlfriend that he needs to move out if he can’t come up with rent money (the whole reason he’s stuck substitute teaching in the first place), teaches the kids a valuable lesson they’re going to remember their entire lives: you’re not hardcore unless you live hardcore.
While also being a great acappella performance out of Jack Black, who really has a killer voice when it comes down to it, the song seems like it wouldn’t be terribly out of place on a Tenacious D album either. It’s unsurprising that Black wrote this and most of the original songs in the film.
It may be a testament to the brilliance of this monologue how majorly depressing it becomes watching Dewey talk about how The Man is going to crush your dreams ten years later. These poor ten year-olds just want to have a normal school day, and Jack Black comes crashing into their lives to tell them about how the government is going to make sure they’re miserable one day. Oh, and that Shamu is definitely miserable in her tank at Sea World.
The thing is, a lot of what Dewey’s yelling is true, even if he’s being a tad dramatic (and probably should wait a few years before unleashing on schoolchildren). Once The Man ruins rock n’ roll, what do you have left?
You’re Tacky and I Hate You
Since the kids have now absorbed their lesson about The Man, Dewey wants them to channel it into their music and get angry. For today’s “lesson,” he becomes The Man and asks them to hurl their best insults at him to express their deepest anger. Being kids, their insults are weird, wonderful and varied. And a little personal.
Get Off Your Ath, Let’s Do Some Math
Here we reach the point in the film where Dewey’s elaborate scheme starts to crumble around the edges just the tiniest of bits. How this isn’t where it all comes crashing down is still beyond me, but maybe Principal Mullins was having a rough day. Forced to actually teach his class “the boring subjects” for the first time, under the supervision of an authority figure, Dewey resorts to half-assing a math lesson through a warbled song. Great save from the little girl who responds in perfect key when he gets the answer wrong. Way to be a team player.
Everyone Needs to Rock in Their Own Way
When Dewey needs to get permission to take the kids off school property and get them to the battle of the bands, he needs to figure out a way to butter up high-strung Principal Mullins as soon as possible. Sadly, all it takes is a little human interaction and some Stevie Nicks on the jukebox. Also, that single sip of beer to get her plastered definitely helps. While it seems like Dewey’s just trying to swindle her (he is), you have to admit that his methods are pretty genius. He’s realized that all people, no matter how they act or appear, can be persuaded by the power of rock – it just has to be their type of rock. Of course Principal Mullins loves Stevie Nicks.
The Immigrant Song
After scoring their gig at the battle of the bands, Dewey emits a celebratory battle cry to the tune of Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song” as the kids rock out in the back of his van. It’s a memorable scene not only because of their epic jam session, but because Led Zeppelin is notoriously stingy when it comes to allowing their music to be used it films. So how did pop up in School of Rock, of all things?
In a video that can be seen on the DVD (and below – it ends with the van scene from the movie), Linklater had Jack Black film himself begging the band to use the song after they filmed the final battle of the bands scene. There he is in all his Angus Young glory, standing on stage before a sea of extras, trying his hardest to get Robert Plant to sign off on letting a few seconds of “The Immigrant Song” play in his movie while he sings like a maniac over it. Can you imagine Plant receiving this tape and watching it? Do you think he knew who Jack Black was before this? He sure does now.
Battle of the Bands
Of course, this list could not be complete without the final performance from The School of Rock. How can you not be happy watching this performance? The kids have all become masters of their instruments, Dewey finally achieves his dreams of becoming a rock god and everyone gains the confidence to get out on stage and face their demanding parents. That’s how you stick it to The Man – you follow your dreams anyway (that was the moral of this movie, right?). It doesn’t hurt that their opponent in the battle was the band that kicked Dewey out at the beginning of the film, either. Most importantly, he gets to crowdsurf and make it all the way back to the stage without getting dropped. Life is good.
What is your favorite scene from School of Rock?