Rock School


Paul Green as School of Rock Founder
C.J. as The Guitar God
Madi as The Quaker
Will as The Depressed Kid
Tucker as Terror Twin #1
Asa as Terror Twin #2
Napoleon Murphy-Brock as the Former Zappa Side-Man

Rock School isn’t a perfect documentary, but the real Paul Green is even funnier and more entertaining than Jack Black’s fictionalized version of him in School of Rock.

At the Paul Green School of Rock, students from the ages of 9 to 17 learn how to play rock music, driven by the school’s maniacal founder Paul Green and his almost tyrannical desire to get them to be the best musicians they can be and to achieve their ultimate goal as musicians….Zappa.

Musicians have a long-running in-joke about an audiotape of bandleader Buddy Rich having a hissy fit at his musicians, a tape which has made the rounds for decades, becoming almost legendary. After watching Don Argott’s documentary Rock School about the Paul Green School of Rock, Buddy Rich is going to seem like Mother Theresa.

Of course, the school’s founder and main “instructor” Paul Green was the influence and inspiration for the Jack Black vehicle School of Rock, but if his character were based on the school’s actual found and main “instructor” Paul Green, that family-friendly film would have had to be rated R, like this documentary. Like Black’s character, Green was a former rocker himself, and quite good if we’re to believe his wife, who decided to use his “skills” to teach others to rock out. Except that Green is a manchild who never quickly grew up and his love of rock music drives him to help his students become the best rockers they can be. His people skills, especially when dealing these young impressionable kids, leaves a lot to be desired. Besides being hypercritical, pushing them in a way that might break some adults, and he’s not afraid to have a tantrum in front of his students or unleash a few expletives. Actually, most of Green’s histrionics are quite funny, since you can hardly believe what you’re seeing.

The beginning students get to learn the basics of rock by playing Black Sabbath songs or as Green calls it, “devil music.” As they progress through the program, they will hopefully become good enough to be admitted into Green’s advanced master class, where they can master the complex arrangements of Frank Zappa. Ultimately, all of the classes will play a bonafide rock concert, though Green’s advanced students get regular gigs. This year, they even have a chance to play the prestigious Zappafest in Germany, adding even more stress and pressure to Green’s quest for perfection.

The thing is that many of these kids are quite good as musicians, so obviously, Green’s bizarre tactics seem to work. The documentary profiles a handful of the different types of students who sign up for Green’s program, including commentary on their abilities by Green himself. The saddest and most lovable of them is the quiet manic depressive Will, who has a bit of a personal awakening after leaving Green’s school and abuse behind him. Then, there are the precocious nine-year-old twins Tucker and Asa, who may not be very good at playing their instruments, but with a little bit of hair and make-up help from their stage-mom-slash-groupie, they turn into killer miniature Ozzies. (Pay attention, folks. This is likely to be where the next Linkin Parks come from.) There’s also a brief sidebar into the extra-extracurricular activities of Madi, a practicing Quaker, who sidelines as part of a Quaker rap group—yes, you read that right–called the Friendly Gangstas.

And then there’s CJ, an unassuming 12-year-old who cranks out note-perfect Eddie Van Halen and Carlos Santana licks without batting an eye. Seeing the effect this kid has on adults and other professional musicians is worth the price of admission alone. He’s that good!

As a documentary, Rock School isn’t exactly groundbreaking in its approach, consisting mainly of interviews interspersed with footage of Paul Green’s “teaching” methods, but it does give a thorough look at the inner-workings of the school with the center of attention never veering too far away from Green. You can only imagine hundreds of horrified parents removing their kids from Green’s program after watching this movie, but it also makes you wonder whether Metallica would have done better having Green provide their in-studio therapy.

The Bottom Line:
Anyone who enjoyed School of Rock will want to check out the real-world influence for Jack Black’s character. Unlike the slew of docs that are done to prove a point or uncover some hidden information, Rock School is done all for fun, and in that sense, it’s hilarious and very entertaining.

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Tuesday: Jan. 21, 2020


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