Rock School review by Mike Long

In fiction, the anti-hero is a fairly commonly occurring character. Many stories contain the figure who does some daring deeds to better society, and yet, is completely unlikable and reprehensible at times. (The Snake Plissken character in Escape from New York is a great example of this idea.) The anti-hero is also featured in non-fiction films as well, but not as often. The documentary Rock School features a true anti-hero, which is both a blessing and a curse. This character is very watchable, but he also pushes the viewer away from the film.

Rock School tells the story of The Paul Green School of Rock in Philadelphia. Musician Paul Green started the school in order to teach youngsters, ages 9-17, the idea that people can be taught how to play rock music. The movie features many interviews with Green and his students, and shows the manner in which Green verbally abuses his students. We also get to see the students performing several live shows. As the story progresses, we learn that a select group of students will be chosen to go to a Frank Zappa festival called "Zappanale" in Germany. With the show approaching, the pressure on the group and Paul grows. The films ends with the kids performing in Germany.

With the recent influx of documentaries, it's not surprising that Rock School got released. However, the movie pales in comparison to its contemporaries and exemplifies where a documentary can go wrong. The object of a documentary is typically to tell a story and the story is told through editing. Ostensibly , Rock School wants to tell the story of The Paul Green School of Rock, focusing on Green and the students. But, the movie is all over the place and never gives the audience much information. We learn the basics, such as where the school is and some about Green's background. The movie also introduces us to some of the students. However, we never learn where these kids come from, what the approximate cost of the classes are, how long they go to the school, etc. I'm not saying that I was expecting a commercial for the school, but background info is always very helpful in a documentary. Even with the students who are profiled, such as the Collins twins, we are never told why they wanted to attend the school. It's understandable why director Don Argott and editor Demian Fenton would want to show the kids performing, but I would have rather seen one less live show and more information about the school.

The other challenging aspect of the film is Paul Green himself. In short, the guy comes across as a major asshole and many viewers will find themselves wondering who this guy is and why anyone would put up with his shenanigans. This man screams profanity at this students and constantly berates them. We rarely hear him say anything positive about the students, and even when he does, it usually comes in the middle of a string of negatives. Yet, he claims that he loves to teach. During the course of the film we learn that Paul had been in bands in the past and that he had a rough childhood. So, we essentially have a failed musician who has taken it upon himself to teach music to children. But, he is also using these kids as targets for his anger. The whole process is mesmerizing at first, but as the film progresses, his behavior becomes unbearable. At the end, I was wondering what kind of parent would let this man take their children to Germany. On a personal note, I also have issues with the way in which Green brain-washes the kids with his own tastes in music. Many of the students mention the kind of music that they were playing before Paul introduces them to classic rock -- and they then trash their previous tastes in music. As a non-musician, I respect anyone who can play anything on any instrument, and it seems odd to me that Paul would convince these kids that the music that they liked wasn't worthy. (Also, I like to think that I know a lot about music, but I couldn't name a Frank Zappa song, so much of the last 1/3 of the film was lost on me.)

The Jack Black character in href="">School of Rock seemed incredibly absurd, but after seeing Rock School, Dewey Finn comes across as bland. This documentary has an amazing subject, but it doesn't know what to do with it. We learn enough about the School of Rock to be interested, but the movie veers from the main story, and never coalesces.

Rock School jams onto DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The movie was shot digitally, so the image looks fairly good. The picture shows a very fine sheen of grain, but it is basically sharp. The colors are realistic and aren't oversaturated, but the image is overly bright at times. There are some moments of artifacting, but they aren't overly distracting. The DVD carries a Dolby 2.0 stereo audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and nice music reproduction. But, the music sounds very flat at times, and never has much "oomph".

The Rock School DVD features a few extras. There is an audio commentary with director/cinematographer/producer Don Argott, producer Sheena Joyce, and editor Demian Fenton. This is one of those commentaries where we learn things that we wish we didn't know. Argott admits that he did no prep on the production and that he simply approached Green after hearing about the school and two days later he was filming. We also learn that many scenes couldn't be included in the film either because musical rights couldn't be obtained or releases weren't given by individuals captured in certain scenes. The DVD contains 20 "Deleted Scenes", but there is no "Play All" feature, which makes watching them a chore. These scenes offer no additional insight into the school and don't answer any of the questions raised by the film. The extras are rounded out by the "Theatrical Trailer" for the film, which is 16 x 9.

4 out of 10 Jackasses

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