Born August 28, 1969
Born August 28, 1969
He’s been compared to Jim Carrey and Robin Williams because of his hyperactivity, quirkiness and penchant for comedic roles. An interesting factoid that I just learned while conducting research for this post is that he often competes for the same roles (and loses them to) Philip Seymour Hoffman. He’s none other than Jack Black.
It’s hard to imagine Jack Black playing Father Flynn in Doubt or Truman Capote in Capote. I think he could have held his own as rock journalist, Lester Bangs, in Almost Famous, though, since the big successes in Black’s career have been in comedies with some musical element.
Black was perfect in his breakthrough role as Barry, a pretentious record-store employee in High Fidelity. Throughout the film, Barry brags about his musical talent and about his band Sonic Death Monkey (which is renamed twice over in the film), yet neither his friends nor his co-workers believe he’s got any real musical chops. At the end of the film, Black delivers a scene stealing rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” Barry’s friends and co-workers believe he’ll crash and burn, just as I thought Black would in that scene, but he pulled it off and then some by delivering a truly fine, inspired and enthusiastic rendition of Gaye’s classic tune. The film industry took notice of Jack Black after High Fidelity and he was tapped as a headliner for other comedies.
In their customary vein of off-colour, crude comedies, the Farrelly brothers wrote and directed Shallow Hal, a film about a shallow man who only dates young, beautiful women until he’s hypnotized by self-help guru Tony Robbins to only see the inner beauty of women. While heartwarming and touching in its message about the strength of inner beauty, Shallow Hal isn’t as funny as other Farrelly brothers’ films and is surprisingly conventional. Black as Hal, however, is good in his first starring role and it’s he who creates comedy in the one-joke movie.
Black reached new heights with his starring role in School of Rock. The film is Black’s biggest success, beloved by both critics and audiences alike. It was a role well suited for Black, once again merging comedy and music together. In the movie, Black plays Dewey Finn, a failed rocker just ousted from the band he founded. He fakes his way into a job as a substitute fifth-grade teacher, ignores the lesson plans and turns his class of students into a rock band. Jack Black, perhaps because he’s one half of the rock comedy duo Tenacious D and possesses a true passion for rock himself, breathes believability and personality into the role and his connection and chemistry with the young actors who play Finn’s students make the film a real pleasure to watch.
Two of Black’s other standout roles were as the voice of Po in the animated mega hit Kung Fu Panda and as drug addicted actor, Jeff Portnoy in the ensemble comedy smash Tropic Thunder. If Black shows a little more discernment in his film choices and picks more gems like the films mentioned here and fewer duds like Nacho Libre and Year One, he’ll give audiences a reason to go out and see his films and hopefully experience a few laughs.
What are your favourite Jack Black performances and/or films? Let us know in the comments section.