Feature: Why the second act of School of Rock absolutely slaps



This feature was written as part of a collaboration organised by @wrymerwatch on Instagram. He is collating the views of film writers on their favourite first, second and third acts of films and I chose to write about School of Rock's second act because it is one of the best examples I could think of! I got carried away when writing about it so although there is a short excerpt on his account, my more extensive thoughts on it follow below.

 

“For those about to rock, I salute you.”


In the first act of School of Rock, the exposition introduces us to Dewey Finn (AKA the new Mr Schneebly), who infiltrates the Horace Green prep school building when he impersonates his roommate, Ned, as a substitute teacher. However, it is in the second act of the film that he infiltrates the hearts and minds of the children he forms a band with.


The audience is always aware that Dewey is bluffing, so in the background throughout the second act is a growing tension that his musical bubble is going to pop, but in the foreground is the undeniable screen presence of Jack Black creating a bond with a class of privileged children who have never been exposed to life beyond their private school, let alone punk rock. As he pitches the prospect of a ‘project’ in the shape of a rock band, the second act sees him and the class go on a journey of musical and personal discovery together. Lessons are definitely taught, just not the conventional kind that parents think their thousands of dollars in tuition money is getting them. It’s a lot of fun.



“Led Zeppelin? Don’t tell me you guys have never got The Led out. What about Sabbath? AC/DC? Motörhead?” Dewey’s take on the ‘curriculum’ is as much a history lesson into the roots of rock music for the audience as it is for the class. When he realises the gap in their knowledge, he makes it his mission to educate in the only way he knows how! The montage that ensues is set to the Ramones’ ‘Bonzo Goes to Bitburg’ and features lessons in Rock 101, which include how to twirl a drum stick, mastering ‘bass face’ and the art of the FACE MELTING SOLO.


Not only does the second act see Mr Schneebly (or is it ‘Schnayblay’?) turn the class into rock stars, but it provides some of the best dialogue in the film too. Quotable lines like, “You’re tacky and I hate you,” and “Cellooooo, you’ve got a bass!” And the ever-relatable, “I like to eat. Is that a crime?” Along with exchanges with Principal Mullins like, “What have you done to your hair?” “...It’s called punk.” “Well, it’s not school uniform.” All showcase the screenwriting skill of Mike White and directorial vision of Richard Linklater, not to mention the outrageously perfect casting of Jack Black and Joan Cusack.



We know from the start of the film that Dewey is a dreamer who has no idea about safeguarding, behaviour management or academic assessment, but it becomes apparent in this act that he does care and he has enough passion to fill a thousand stadiums. He can encourage, inspire and match each student’s skills and interests with a role that they will enjoy and succeed in, which is more than can be said for contemporary education systems which insist on maintaining archaic traditions. Just like the punk rockers of the past, Dewey is here to shake things up!


He is even able to break the cold exterior of Headteacher, Rosalie Mullins (or ‘Roz’ when she’s had a few). The scene in the bar when Stevie Nicks’ ‘Edge of Seventeen’ plays on the jukebox and she “makes an exception” for an ‘educational school trip’ is another highlight. Iconic, even!



The second act of School of Rock is one with such momentum and blind passion for rock music that it doesn’t matter that an eccentric middle aged man is taking a load of children in a tour van because you know the class are ultimately better for the experience. It’s infectious, creative, heartfelt and one of the most rewatchable films of the 2000s.


Cello? What are you waiting for? Dust off your scruffiest band tee and stick it to the man with Jack Black and his band. (The first and third acts are just as good as the second!)

 

Watch the School of Rock trailer here: