Rock ‘N’ Roll High School Movie Review: Nonsense. Sweet, Glorious Nonsense

Written by Chris Morgan

I tend to try and keep first person out of the reviews I write here, but for once I am breaking the rule, much in the way the movie Rock ‘N’ Roll High School breaks many rules. Rules like not having giant mutant rats attend Ramones concerts. As I watched this film, I noted on Twitter: “I am not sure if Rock ‘N’ Roll High School is a work of unparalled genius, or the worst movie I’ve ever seen.” In truth, it is neither, but at times it pivots toward both.

The movie has names like Roger Corman and Joe Dante attached to it, and you get the things you expect from their films, albeit perhaps with less sex and violence than many a Corman film (there is an extended scene in a girls’ gym class, to be fair). However, this is Allan Arkush’s film, and he synthesizes the ethos of both Corman and Dante within himself apparently. This movie is bonkers. It’s a classic rebellious high school movie, but with a ton of goofy, silly, non-sequitur stuff in it. Also, a lot of The Ramones. Not just their music. They act! They appear in P.J. Soles’ surprisingly tame sexual daydreams! They eat pizza!

Soles stars as Riff Randell, a rebellious teenager (played by a woman in her late 20s) at Vince Lombardi High School. There’s a new, strict principal in town, and she is very much against rock music, which Riff loves. Namely, she loves the Ramones, and in the most absurd element to this movie, Joey Ramone is considered the pinnacle of human attractiveness. There are other characters of note, but the only face you are likely to recognize is Clint Howard. Yep, Clint Howard qualifies as a “big name” here, but that’s OK. It is a low budget, B-movie romp. And romp it does.

Look, if you don’t like silly, slapdash comedies, or the music of The Ramones, do not bother with Rock ‘N’ Roll High School. You will not like it. However, otherwise it can be a very enjoyable viewing experience. The jokes come fast and furious. There were jokes that made me shake my head and roll my eyes, sure, but there were as many jokes that made me really, really laugh. There is a bit involving Joey Ramone and food that is one of the funnier things I have seen recently in a film.

The movie is very much a “slobs vs. snob” comedy, with many of the trappings of such films I find problematic. It is definitely of a bygone era. A freshman is routinely bullied, for comedy’s sake, and only the silliness of the movie keeps it from being very unpleasant. Women are, at times, not treated so great. Plus, I have a bit more respect for the educational process than Riff and her friends, it would seem. However, again, the abject goofiness of the film placates me a bit. They seem to know how over the top they are being. There is no message here, other than “Hey! Jokes and music! Enjoy!” And enjoy I did.

For a low-budget Corman film, the acting is fairly solid. Soles shines as Riff, and everybody else is pretty much up for the task. The cheapness of the movie does not hinder it. If you have a higher tolerance for goofy absurdity than I, you might enjoy this movie even more than I did. Rock ‘N’ Roll High School is certainly a very interesting, often amusing artifact of late ’70s B-movies. The movie was apparently made for $200,000. They got their money’s worth, and then some.

Posted in ,

Cinema Sentries

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Search & Filter