Black is certainly spewing ammo in this month of ”Rocktober,” to use the 34-year-old’s mock-hipster terminology. ”There’s no escaping me,” he grins, proud to unleash a double dose of rock & roll spirit on the populace. But will both blasts be equally powerful, as Black hopes?
Fire one is definitely a direct hit: ”School of Rock,” a formulaic, high-concept studio comedy that Black, along with screenwriter Mike White (”Chuck & Buck,” ”The Good Girl”) and director Richard Linklater (”Dazed and Confused,” ”Waking Life”), has given a deliciously unformulaic spin. The bull’s-eye is both financial – a $20 million No. 1 opening – and critical, with praise nearly unanimous for Black’s performance as a plugged-in Peter Pan. In the movie, Black – previously known for his crazed-frat-boy roles in ”High Fidelity” and ”Shallow Hal” – plays Dewey Finn, a wannabe lead guitarist and singer who gets kicked out of his own band, then scams his way into a substitute-teaching job to pay the bills. He thereupon transforms a class of prep-school fifth graders into a rocking ensemble and leads them to a hardcore Battle of the Bands competition against grown-up contenders.