A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
Paul Green is a great teacher. We have this on the authority of Paul Green. He wanted to be a great rock musician, and when that didn't pan out, he picked something he could be great at, and now, he admits, he is great at it. In the documentary "Rock School," he is the founder and apparently the entire faculty at the Paul Green School of Rock, a Philadelphia after-school program that takes kids from 9 to 17 and trains them to be rock musicians. Maybe he would like to start even sooner; at one point he asks his infant son, "Can you say 'Jethro Tull'?"
The school is crammed into a narrow brick building where every classroom seems jammed with kids who do not measure up to Green's standards. He warns them, berates them, shouts at them, waves his arms, issues dire predictions and somehow gets them to play music. Some of them are pretty good. There is a guitar player named C.J. Tywoniak, who stands about 5 feet tall and can play better than most of the guitarists you see on "Saturday Night Live." And a singer named Madi Diaz Svalgard, who comes out of a Quaker background and knows people involved in a group named Quaker Gangsta.
"The whole thing in education now is that you don't compare children," Green says. "Well, I do." It's difficult to figure out what the kids are thinking as they stare at him during his tirades, but he has a certain level of self-mockery that takes the edge off. Green is not an angry jerk so much as a guy playing an angry jerk because he loves rock music and wants these kids to play it well. He's not Mr. Nice Guy, like the Jack Black character in the movie "School of Rock."
But what does he mean by rock music? "I wanted life as a rock star in 1972," he said. "I'd never want to be a rock star now." His god is Frank Zappa, and he leads the kids through difficult Zappa songs like "Inca Roads," preparing them for the annual Zappanale Festival in Germany. "We gotta be the best band there," he says, and his pre-show pep talk soundd uncannily like a coach in a high school sports movie.