Dewey Finn is an arrogant, outlandish musician without a cent to his name; however, he is a catalyst to pursuing ambitions. Through its humor the movie is able to relate to the dreamer that will never quit in every viewer. School of Rock is an inspiring movie about children and young adults not only pursuing their ambitions, but also inspiring and encouraging others to pursue theirs, even through opposition.
The perception of Jack Black's character Dewey Finn is an overweight, washed-up, broke musician. Despite the criticism he receives, he refuses to be anything other than a musician. Ebert says, "Dewey Finn does not start as a disreputable character and then turn gooey. Jack Black remains true to his irascible character all the way through; he makes Dewey's personality not a plot gimmick, but a way of life". Black is in almost the entire movie and wildly entertaining in each scene. Whether he is dancing like a maniac in front of his class or singing math songs, his mannerisms and facial responses are the highlight of the comedic genius in School of Rock.
After being kicked out of his rock and roll band, Dewey finds himself at a crossroads: be poor or give up music. Desperate to pay rent and still be a musician he steals a "gig" from Ned Schneebly, his friend and his landlord, as a substitute teacher at a private school. This uptight private school is the last place a person of Dewey's crude personality and short temper belongs. Ned is Dewey's ironic antagonist; he represents what would happen if Dewey gave up on his dreams; but unlike most antagonists, he is soft spoken and a pushover. Ned (Mike White) is a dullard who says few words in the movie, except when he tells Dewey that he misses music everyday. Dewey is dumbfounded when he realizes a substitute teacher is more than just a "temp" who sits behind the desk quietly; this shocks him into realizing that he does not belong in the classroom. Rainer points out, "His fifth-grade class doesn't know what to make of him, especially when he declares an all-day recess and, hungry, swipes a sandwich from one of his students." Dewey hatches the idea to teach the children about the only thing he can teach: rock and roll, or what he considers real music. Holden says, "Dewey is flabbergasted when his students cite Christina Aguilera, the musical Annie and Liza Minnelli as their musical influences and claim total ignorance of Dewey's personal hard-rock pantheon." In order to culture them, he teaches them more than just names and songs, he teaches them how to act like rock and roll stars. Motivation to be productive as a substitute comes to Dewey when he recognizes that the students are talented and they need someone to enhance their rock and roll abilities. Dewey is energized at the chalkboard when he draws an intricate diagram covering the vast topic of rock and roll. He turns the dry, mundane classroom into a creative space that is unique for each student's passions. Holden says, "Those who are not musicians design lights, costumes and sound, or serve as roadies." Dewey explores what each member is capable of and uses it to enhance the band as a whole. School of Rock connects with viewers by attesting to the fact that no goal can be accomplished without overcoming some obstacles. Lawrence, a keyboardist, tells Dewey that he "is not cool enough to be in the band"(School of Rock). Dewey tells him, "you could be the ugliest sad sack on the planet, but if you are in a rocking band you are the cat's pajamas"(School of Rock). Dewey has personally faced many critics for his appearance or how he is not cool enough but continues to perform regardless. Tomika (Myra Hassan), another student, asks Dewey if she can avoid preforming because she is sensitive about her weight. Ebert notes this scene, "You have an issue with weight? " Dewey asks. "You know who else has a weight issue? Me! But I get up there on the stage and start to sing, and people worship me." This touches on the fact that most viewers have felt inadequate in the pursuit of his dreams; but in the achievement of his or her dreams he or she becomes adequate and even prodigious. The most worthwhile lesson Dewey teaches the class is about "sticking it to the man" (School of Rock). Dewey has all his students get heated and tell him off. Lawrence, generally quiet, tells him "he is a fat loser and has body odor"(School of Rock). The students have all gained a backbone, and some, since the beginning of the movie when they were conformists to their systematic school. Whether the school is enforcing the strict dress code or the student's parent is yelling at them for listening to rock and roll, the students have learned to think for themselves and do what they believe in. The students are diverse; there is a grade grubber, a stereotypically cool kid, an insecure girl, and every other type of child. The children connect with Black convincingly throughout the entirety of the movie, whether they are supposed to believe Black to be their new substitute or their fellow band member. As a band, Black and the students are able to "stick it to the man" and pursue their ambitions despite the negativity they receive.
School of Rock ends with a grand finale at the Battle of the Bands with a conglomeration of the parents, teachers, the former band, and the new band, School of Rock. Despite the fact that the entire movie is about performing at the Battle of the Bands, it becomes less and less important as the movie progresses. School of Rock becomes more about how finding a passion that gives you joy and pursuing is greater than focusing on being the absolute best.