His name: Dewey Finn. Occupation: currently unemployed. Life’s goal: to become a rock and roll superstar. Major obstacle to accomplishing this goal: his band (see "Life’s goal") has fired him in favor of another guitarist (see "Occupation"). Living status: indefinite, since the rent is way past due and his roommate, a substitute teacher, is becoming increasing impatient. Now what is a slacker/wannabe rocker supposed to do? Opportunity knocks, in the form of a ringing telephone; on the other line is a secretary from a well-paying prep school in need of a sub. Just how hard could it be for this very modestly-educated twenty-something to teach a bunch of fourth-graders?
That’s the set-up for School of Rock (*** out of four), a highly-amusing comedy that is a completely formulaic fish-out-of-water, little-guy-against-the-odds kind of movie. Starring the inimitable Jack Black (Shallow Hal, High Fidelity), whose abilities as a musician are already well known (in real life he fronts the two-piece band Tenacious D) here made good use of. His slightly out-of-control shtick never wears thin, fortunately, this movie being written (by Mike White, who plays Dewey’s roommate) as a star vehicle, with just enough wiggle room for spontaneous improvisation. ...
Be sure to read the whole School article to see a portion of my interview with Jack Black. Actually, it was a group phone conference thing with about 15 other college journalists. Nifty indeed.
Some movies, you simply couldn’t imagine their being different in any way, shape or form (which of course is why remakes often are miserable failures). Other films invite speculation as to how their success, or lack thereof, would have been affected by a key change in terms of story, direction, casting or performances.
Lost in Translation (***1/2 out of four) could fall under both classifications. On one hand, Sofia Coppola’s new comic drama has a distinctive look about it and its superb cast is note perfect. Yet, one can hardly help but wonder how immensely inferior this could have been, either a generically Hollywood-ized snore, or an aimless avant-garde mess, in the hands of less-adept filmmakers and performers. It’s lucky that the stars, so to speak, converged at just the right time to make what is at times a travelogue filled with wacky humor, and other times a somber, reflective character study.
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