The poster for School of Rock carries the slogan: ‘Mr Black - Accept No Substitutes’. And neither would you want to, for this movie literally feeds off the Tenacious D front man’s persona. Black’s previous forays into lead roles (Shallow Hal, Orange County) have been rather less than successful: he’s been much better when not burdened with the responsibility of carrying a film. But carry this film he most certainly does.

Dewey Finn (Black) gets thrown out of his rock band, the other members of which are tired of his ten-minute guitar solos and his propensity for inappropriate stage-divery. In need of some quick cash, Dewey takes a job, assuming the identity of his flatmate Ned (the film’s writer, Mike White) and becomes a supply teacher at the Horace Mann Prep School for posh kids. Knowing next to nothing about history or math (as they call it), Dewey puts his class on permanent recess until, that is, he overhears them playing classical music in a music class. Well, if they can play Rodrigo, they can play Zeppelin - and there’s the Battle of the Bands competition coming up . . .

lngeniously inventing ways past any hurdles the school or the kids can throw at him, Dewey goes to work preaching the Gospel According to St Jimmy [Page], and is, of course, much better with the kids than he’d imagined.

Black possesses a physicality and agility that belie his larger-than-average size and he brings a tremendous energy to his portrayal of non-stop big kid rocker. He works an impressive array of facial muscles in developing the fury with which he reduces Finn’s character to an amalgam of ACDC’s Angus Young and a demonic Billy Bunter.

The kiddie stars all equip themselves pretty


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well (though strangely the bass player never speaks a homage to John Entwhistle?). Joan Cusack is great as the uptight headmistress who’s long forgotten how to let her hair down and director Richard Linklater (Slackers, Waking Life) for once puts his fine storytelling ability above his addiction to stylistic ticks.

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the smart sass of its script, a pure sense of fun, and Black’s thundering central performance. Don’t expect too many surprises however, you pretty much know where it's going. But you won’t care about that, you’ll be too busy laughing. Everyone involved seems to be having so much of fun, as they gently mock a musical genre that you suspect Black, White and Linklater are halfway in love with. Unadulterated fun. (Rod White)

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