In the times before “Peaches” and after the birth of The D (Tenacious D), there was School of Rock, a movie written by a non-metal head (Mike White), directed by one of the greatest slackers (Richard Linklater), and lead by a performer who breathes heavy metal and farts punk rock (Jack Black). This film would go on to create a legacy that includes a Broadway musical and brings credit and acclaim to an unconnected and still-running music education program. Now, 20 years hence its opening, Paramount Pictures aims to celebrate the birth of a slacker comedy rock classic, School of Rock, with a limited edition Blu-ray steelbook.
Dewey Finn (Black) knows that all it takes is one great show to change the world, or, at least, change his life. But when he gets kicked out of the band he founded and then is told that he needs to start paying rent if he’s going to continue crashing at his friend Ned’s (White) place, Dewey gets desperate. So much so that when a call arrives for Ned asking if he’s free to work as a long-term sub at an elite elementary prep school, despite having zero classroom experience, Dewey decides to pretend to be Ned so as to get the funds he needs to keep a roof over his head. Dewey figured this would just be a means to an end, but imagine his surprise when he learns that his students possess musical talent and the opportunity for him to finally have a band worthy of winning a local competition arises. Now can he keep everyone thinking he knows what he’s doing until then…?
At the time of the release, Black was coming off films like High Fidelity (2000), Saving Silverman (2001), Shallow Hal (2001), and Orange County (2002), films which made good use of his wild antics, making his turn in School of Rock not so much a surprise but a way of focusing the energy into something both charming and infectious. Admittedly, the film hits differently as a father of two (one elementary school aged) than when I was a recent college graduate. The thought that someone would lie their way into the classroom and shift all the learning onto music in order to win a battle of the bands feels like a fear more than a reason for hilarity, (something which the film hits on in the scene when Dewey is discovered to be a fraud on the poorly understood “I touched your children and I’m pretty sure they touched me” line comes along). However, thanks to Black’s irresistible charm and the just pure innocent energy he emits thanks to his persistent slacker vibe, there’s never any real danger, so one is still able to enjoy the film 20 years later. In this reviewer’s case, anyway, that I agree that music and its history play an important part in understanding other forms of art, as well as correlates to subjects like math, English, social studies, and science, goes a long way in appreciating what Dewey accomplishes by turning a group of youngsters onto the likes of Led Zeppelin, The Who, Stevie Nicks, Ramones, The Stooges, and T. Rex (says the reviewer using The Darkness’s “Last of Our Kind” album as his writing music). The parental ick isn’t enough to reduce the delight of School of Rock as a harmless, sweet dramedy whose chords still strike hot all these years later.
This release may be an effort to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release, but there’s nothing new on-disc or via the digital edition that signify this momentous moment. No new commentary, no new featurette, not even a 4K UHD remaster. Instead, Paramount offers a steelbook as the pull to inspire viewers to pick up this version.
The outside covers feature a consistent background design of black and red lightning alternating with the center image on the front being Black as Dewey sliding on the floor after hitting a note on his guitar with the different kids poking out from around him. The back is a far simpler design, featuring only the band logo and name: “School of Rock.” The inside is a double-wide of Dewey at the classroom chalkboard doing his lecture on the history of rock and the overlap between genres. It’s a relatively simple design that serves the purpose of being eye-catching, even if not altogether enticing. The release also features the usual adhesive-attached release information, so you see what’s included on the release before unwrapping the plastic. For those interested in protecting the release, the adhesive on the review copy is attached at the top-front, as well as along the back, so I had to remove some of the adhesive in order to open the case to get to the disc. While this isn’t a deal-breaker, necessarily, the extra adhesive can potentially leave additional residue on the case that some collectors may want to avoid.
School of Rock may not be the greatest rock film ever made, but it’s a strong tribute to the artform, still capable of entertaining old fans and maybe helping to turn new ones to the roadways of rock. While it would be great to have included some new special features or maybe even a new video/audio remaster, for those who don’t already own a physical copy, this steelbook may seal the deal. It’s a little too light to encourage a pick-up immediately, but, if you dig the design work and don’t have this on Blu-ray or digital yet, fans won’t be disappointed.
School of Rock Legacy Special Features:
- Commentary by actor Jack Black and director Richard Linklater
- Kids’ Kommentary
- Lessons Learned on School of Rock
- Jack Black’s Pitch to Led Zeppelin
- School of Rock Music Video
- Kids’ Video Diary: Toronto Film Festival
- MTV’s Diary of Jack Black
- Dewey Finn’s History of Rock
- Theatrical Trailer
Available on Blu-ray and digital Combo steelbook September 26th, 2023.
For more information, head to the official Paramount Pictures School of Rock webpage.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.