Jack Black's journey in music began when his relationship with the pop group Journey ended — and in School of Rock he's trying to instill our kids with the innocent joys of hell-raising heavy metal.
Black has a history of playing slackers and stoners and might seem like an odd choice to star in a family film. But fans who remember his scene-stealing performances in High Fidelity and his uproarious singing with Tenacious D are in for a big surprise.
Black is Shallow Hal no longer. In School of Rock, the 35-year-old bad boy plays it clean as the substitute teacher who turns a prestigious prep school upside down, transforming classical music students into rockers.
"It's a celebration of immaturity," Black tells reporters in the days before the movie's release. "In many ways, that's where my whole love of hard rocking came from."
"I think I was 12 or 13 when I went into a record store to get the new Journey album. But then there was an older kid there who said, 'Hey, Man! Don't get that record! Do yourself a favor dude, get this thing.' And he gave me Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Ozz, and that is when I truly raised the goblet of rock." Black Refrains From F-Bombs
School of Rock has opened to strong reviews, with an A-rating from Good Morning America's Joel Siegel and ubiquitous praise for Black's unlikely turn to the family film market.
But Black said it wasn't as hard as you might think to reel in his raucous persona enough to make him someone you might want to introduce to your children.
"Obviously, I wasn't going to drop any F-bombs in the room," Black says. "You have to mind your Ps and Qs a little bit. But I didn't hold back at all. You have to communicate those cuss words through your face muscles."
The film earned a PG-13 rating because of a single reference to drugs. But it's mostly good, clean fun.
It's not easy to make a film that truly appeals to the whole family, and Black seems like an unlikely candidate to take on that challenge. But perhaps a bigger surprise is the talent behind the camera. Director Richard Linklater is best known for Slacker, SubUrbia and Dazed and Confused — three independent films that take unflinching alcohol-and-drug-drenched looks at disaffected American youth.
Screenwriter Mike White also had a reputation for making quirky independent films, like Chuck and Buck and The Good Girl. White had previously scripted Black's part in Orange County in which Black accidentally gets his younger brother's college admissions officer high — a role that seems pure Black.
Such a trio nearly guarantees that School of Rock would not become yet another bland family film.
"The only hesitation is that there's a stigma with kids' movies, where it's like, "Oh it's a kids' movie, it can't be that good. It can't be funny, right?'" says Black. But it can be, he maintains.
"Back in the '70s, like one of my favorite movies ever was The Bad News Bears, and that was a kids' movie, but I don't think of it that way. I think of it as just a great movie because Walter Matthau was so funny and so harsh with those kids.
"He wasn't taking it easy on them. He was treating them like people and he was so grumpy and we wanted this to be kind of like The Bad News Bears of Rock." Filmmakers Ponder, ‘What Would AC/DC Do?’