- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 8, 2003

School of Rock could have been a middling mainstream comedy, cute but cloying and instantly forgettable. By some miracle, it’s a near-perfect triumph, easily the funniest movie of the year. The family-friendly comedy features a troupe of child actors playing fifth-grade prep-schoolers who are pressed into musical service by a pathetic would-be guitar rock god impersonating a substitute teacher. Sounds like “Dead Poets Society” meets “Spinal Tap,” yes? But indie director Richard Linklater and screenwriter Mike White have given the youngsters an irrepressible ringleader: the pudgy comic actor Jack Black in a role that seems tailor-made for him. He plays an underemployed, self-deluding musician so strapped for cash that he takes on the masquerade at the elite school — in a god-awful bow-tie, a cardigan and, for full preppy measure, a sweater-scarf — and turns his classically trained music students into rockers. The movie is cleverly layered with little ironies, but it’s Mr. Black’s mixture of pinpoint parody and idolatrous celebration — of putting rock music on a pedestal, only to knock it down in satire — that transforms a formulaic story into an inspired and original comic success.

Scott Galupo

France saw some of its most sensational and critical changes in the 18th century, among them the last years of Louis XIV, the bloody French Revolution and the idealistic Enlightenment. The National Gallery of Art has brought together the finest art by that century’s best painters in The Age of Watteau, Chardin, and Fragonard: Masterpieces of French Genre Painting. Included are Jean-Antoine Watteau, Jean-Honore Fragonard, Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, Nicholas Lancret, Etienne Aubry, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Francois Boucher and Louis-Leopold Boilly. Watteau is best known for painting beautiful ladies and gallant men in sylvan glades; Chardin painted classical portraits of children and their servants; Boucher depicted incredibly beautiful women. At the National Gallery, Fourth Street at Constitution Ave. NW. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, through Jan. 11. Free. 202/842-6353.

Joanna Shaw-Eagle

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