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Rock School (2005)

  Directed by: Don Argott
Starring: Asa Collins, Tucker Collins, Madi Diaz-Svalgard, Paul Green, Will O'Connor, C.J. Tywoniak
Links: Rock School on the IMDb, Official site
Genre: Documentary

This movie gets: 6.00 (1 rating)
nofreelist.com Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

"Not as great as it sounded" - a review by pearly

It's been called the real life School of Rock (2003), and that's not too far off the mark. In Rock School, the Jack Black character is Paul Green, the founder of the Paul Green School of Rock Music, and a man who is just as whacky as Black's character Dewey, though he is also quite a bit more eccentric. Green was never trained as a teacher, and he began the school because he loved rock music and wanted to work in a job that would allow him to play all the time, but he knew that he wasn't good enough to actually be a musician. Those that can't do, teach, right? And thus, the school was born.

Due to Green's lack of training as a teacher, his somewhat unorthodox approach is part of the fascination of the film. Green alternates between berating the children for not practicing enough and not being rocking enough, being able to read them and their feelings like books, and joking around in totally inappropriate ways. One minute, you're wondering why a parent would ever allow their kid to come to this Godforsaken place, and the next, you're marvelling at how much Green really knows about the kids and what makes them tick. It's all very strange to watch.

What I disliked most about Rock School as a documentary was that it seemed to lack a bit of cohesiveness. Their was a vague storyline running through the whole thing - that of the kid's preparations for a trip to Germany to play at Zappanale (where they get to play with Napoleon Murphy-Brown, who was in the original band), a huge tribute concert held annually celebrating the work of Frank Zappa - but the film skips around a lot and the timeline is often difficult to follow. One of the most interesting yet difficult to understand people in the film is Will O'Connor, an odd boy who discusses openly his brushes with suicide, and the help that Green has given him since he began at the school. But partway through the film, O'Connor begins talking as though he is no longer at the school, and it appears that some time has passed since some of the other scenes were shot, though this is never fully explained. The way in which all of this is done leads to a bit of confusion, and it could have been better executed.

So who are these kids that make up the students at Rock School? There's O'Connor, whose pieces to camera are possibly the most intriguing parts of the film (though we really needed to hear more from him to begin to understand his point of view). There's the twins: Asa Collins and Tucker Collins, who are both boys (read it and weep, andy-j and #person 4##), and who are among the youngest at the school, but who have full support of their mother. There's Madi Diaz-Svalgard, a Quaker who mixes up her religious life with her wish to rock, and C.J. Tywoniak, arguably the most talented of the kids at the school, but other than that, not of any particular interest in the film. The question that remains is whether Green has helped any of these kids towards a career as a musician. Green says during the film that he hopes that he will soon see the pages of Rolling Stone filled with his school's graduates. I am dubious.

Given its exciting topic, and the fact that I am quite fond of documentaries, Rock School should have been a shoe-in for a high rating. Unfortunately, it falls a little short. Though I sat watching most of it in a kind of bemused state, I couldn't help but think that, had the filmmakers taken a slightly different focus on the whole thing, the overall effect could have been a whole lot more interesting. Still, points for what they did manage.

pearly gives this movie 6 out of 10.
Review created on Tue 19 Jul 2005

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