No Vacancy, a rock band, performs at a nightclub three weeks before auditioning for the Battle of the Bands. Guitarist Dewey Finn creates on-stage antics, including a stage dive that abruptly ends the performance. The next morning, Dewey wakes in the apartment he lives in with Ned Schneebly and his girlfriend, Patty Di Marco. They inform Dewey he must make up for his share of the rent, which is four months overdue. When Dewey meets No Vacancy at a rehearsal session, he finds out that he has been replaced by another guitarist named Spider. Later, while attempting to sell some of his equipment for rent money, Dewey answers a phone call from Rosalie Mullins, the principal of the Horace Green prep school, inquiring for Ned about a short-term position as a substitute teacher. Desperate for money, Dewey impersonates Ned and is hired. On his first day at the school, Dewey adopts the name "Mr. S" and spends his first day behaving erratically, much to the class' confusion.
The next day, Dewey overhears a music class and devises a plan to form them into a new band to audition for Battle of the Bands. He casts Zack Mooneyham as lead guitarist, Freddy Jones as drummer, cello player Katie on bass, Lawrence on keyboard, and himself as lead vocalist and guitarist. He assigns the rest of the class to various roles of backup singers, groupies, roadies, with Summer as band manager. The project takes over normal lessons, but helps the students to embrace their talents and overcome their problems. He reassures Lawrence, who is worried about not being cool enough for the band, Zack, whose overbearing father disapproves of rock, and Tomika, an overweight girl who is too self-conscious to even audition for backup singer despite an amazing voice. During one eloquent lesson, he teaches the kids that rock and roll is the way to "Stick it to the Man" and stand up for themselves. Band "groupies" Michelle and Eleni, with Summer's approval, pitch the band name "The School of Rock."
Two weeks into his hiring, Dewey sneaks his key band members out of school to audition for a spot in the competition, while the rest of the class stay behind to maintain cover. When Freddy wanders off, Dewey retrieves him but the group is rejected because the bill is full. After Summer tricks the staff into thinking that they have a terminal illness, the band is auditioned. The next day, Mullins decides to check on his teaching progress, forcing Dewey to teach the actual material. Mullins explains that a parents' night will take place at the school the day before Battle of the Bands, rendering Dewey somewhat concerned.
As Dewey prepares for the parents' night, Ned receives a paycheck from the school via mail, soon realizing that Dewey impersonated him. During the parents' meeting, the parents question what Dewey was teaching the kids until Ned, Patty, with the police confront Dewey. With Mullins bursting in to question what is going on, Dewey reveals his true identity, saying that he is not a certified teacher and flees to his apartment. Dewey and Patty argue and Ned intervenes; however, he informs Dewey that he should move out.
The next morning, the parents go on an uproar in front of Mullins at her office, while the kids decide not to let their hard work go to waste. When the new substitute discovers that the kids are missing, she informs Mullins, and Mullins and the parents race to the competition. A school bus comes to pick up Dewey, who leads the kids to the Battle of the Bands and decides that they play the song written by Zack earlier in the film. Initially dismissed as a gimmick, the band wins over the entire crowd. Much to Dewey's dismay, No Vacancy wins, but the audience to chant for School of Rock and demand an encore.
Some time later, an after school program known as the School of Rock has opened as Dewey continues to coach the students he played with before while Ned teaches beginners.
Screenwriter Mike White's concept for the film was inspired by the Langley Schools Music Project. Various aspects of the plot were recognized as being similar to the 1957 Broadway hit The Music Man. Jack Black once witnessed a stage dive gone wrong involving Ian Astbury of rock band The Cult, which made its way into the film; "I went to see a reunion, in Los Angeles, of The Cult... it was just a bunch of jaded Los Angelinos out there, and they didn't catch him and he plummeted straight to the ground. Later I thought it was so hilarious. So that was put into the script." Many scenes from the movie were shot around the New York City area. The school portrayed in School of Rock is actually Main Hall at Wagner College in Staten Island, New York. In the commentary, the kids say that all of the hallway scenes were shot in one hallway. One of the theaters used in many of the shots was at Union County Performing Arts Center located in Rahway, New Jersey.
The eponymous album was released on September 30, 2003. Sammy James Jr. of the band The Mooney Suzuki penned the title track with screenwriter Mike White, and the band backed up Jack Black and the child musicians on the soundtrack recording of the song. The film's director, Richard Linklater, scouted the country for talented 13-year-old musicians to play the rock and roll music featured on the soundtrack and in the film. The soundtrack includes "Immigrant Song" by Led Zeppelin, a band that has rarely granted permission for use of their songs in film and television. Richard Linklater came up with the idea to shoot a video on the stage used at the end of the film, with Jack Black begging the band for permission with the crowd extras cheering and chanting behind him. The video was sent directly to the living members of Led Zeppelin, and permission was granted for the song. The video is included on the DVD.
* Featured on the Soundtrack album
School of Rock received an approval rating of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 192 reviews with an average rating of 7.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Black's exuberant, gleeful performance turns School of Rock into a hilarious, rocking good time." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 82 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
School of Rock opened at #1 with a weekend gross of $19,622,714 from 2,614 theaters for an average of $7,507 per venue. In its second weekend, the film declined just 21 percent, earning another $15,487,832 after expanding to 2,929 theaters, averaging $5,288 per venue, and bringing the 10-day gross to $39,671,396. In its third weekend, it dropped only 28 percent, making another $11,006,233 after expanding once again to 2,951 theaters, averaging $3,730 per venue, and bringing the 17-day gross to $54,898,025. It spent a total of six weeks among the Top 10 films and eventually grossed $81,261,177 in the United States and Canada and another $50,015,772 in international territories for a total gross of $131,282,949 worldwide, almost four times its budget of $35 million. This made School of Rock the highest-grossing musical comedy of all time, until it was overtaken in 2015 by Pitch Perfect 2.
Awards and nominations
The film was nominated for several awards, including Black receiving a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor – Comedy or Musical (which he lost to Bill Murray for Lost in Translation), and winning an MTV Movie Award for Best Comedic Performance.
In 2008, Jack Black said that a sequel was being considered. It was later reported that director Richard Linklater and producer Scott Rudin would return. Mike White was returning as screenwriter, titled School of Rock 2: America Rocks, which picks up with Finn leading a group of summer school students on a cross-country field trip that delves into the history of rock 'n' roll. In 2012, Black stated that he believed the sequel was unlikely. "I tried really hard to get all the pieces together," he said. "I wouldn't want to do it without the original writer and director, and we never all got together and saw eye-to-eye on what the script would be. It was not meant to be, unfortunately," but added, "never say never".
On April 5, 2013, Andrew Lloyd Webber announced that he had bought the rights to School of Rock to a stage musical. On December 18, 2014, the musical was officially confirmed and it was announced that the show would receive its world premiere on Broadway in autumn 2015, at the Winter Garden Theatre. The musical has a book by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. and is directed by Laurence Connor, with choreography by JoAnn M. Hunter, set and costume design by Anna Louizos and lighting by Natasha Katz. The musical features an original score composed by Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Glenn Slater and sound design by Mick Potter, in addition to music from the original film. School of Rock became Lloyd Webber's first show opening on Broadway before London since Jesus Christ Superstar in 1971.
On August 29, 2013, a 10-year anniversary screening of the film was held in Austin, Texas at the Paramount Theatre. Those in attendance included director Richard Linklater, Jack Black, Mike White, Miranda Cosgrove and the rest of the young cast members except for Cole Hawkins (who played Leonard). The event, hosted by the Austin Film Society and Cirrus Logic, included a red carpet, a full cast and crew Q&A after the screening, where the now-grown child stars discussed their current pursuits in life, and a VIP after-party performance by the School of Rock band during which "School of Rock" and "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" were played.
On August 4, 2014, Nickelodeon announced that they were working with Paramount Television on a television show adaptation of the film. Production started in the fall and the series premiered in 2016. It stars Breanna Yde, Ricardo Hurtado, Jade Pettyjohn, Lance Lim, Aidan Miner, and Tony Cavalero.