Rock 'n' Roll High School
The Ramones still rock in comedy with some adult material.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL is a 1970s-era, drive-in-style, anti-authority comedy with music by the punk band the Ramones. There's hardly any good behavior here; the teen characters are rebellious and reckless, and the authority figures are mean and rigid and soul-sucking; it's impossible not to root for the teens. Of course, even today's teens will love to see other teens standing up to and humiliating their elders, and in many ways, it's good clean fun. But the movie contains heavy sexual innuendo (no nudity) and some overt use of cigarettes, drugs, and liquor by teens. The movie wouldn't be worth talking about, however, without the Ramones, who have gone on to occupy a seminal, pioneering place in rock history; some parents may be interested in braving the objectionable material to introduce teens to this great music.
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What's the Story?
Riff Randell (P.J. Soles) is a huge fan of the punk band the Ramones and loves to share her enthusiasm with her fellow students at Vince Lombardi High. Unfortunately, the new principal, Miss Togar (Mary Woronov), doesn't like it and tries to instill a stifling new order. Thus begins a battle of wits between teen rebel and authority figure, culminating on the night of the big Ramones concert. Riff needs to get to the show to give her new song, "Rock 'n' Roll High School," to the band, but Miss Togar will do everything in her command to keep that from happening. So Riff decides to take things to a higher level -- and take over the school.
Is It Any Good?
Produced by B-movie master Roger Corman, ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL isn't exactly polished. It alternates between realistic humor and surreal humor (such as the size of Eaglebauer's bathroom stall "office"). It also moves from knowing, winking moments to awkward naïve moments, but somehow -- almost as if it were a lucky guess -- the movie's tone and energy is exactly right, and it ties all these disparate moods together. What it doesn't have in polish or artistry, it makes up for in fun and energy.
And, almost miraculously, the movie's moods seem to precisely fit the music of the Ramones, and frankly, without them, the movie wouldn't be worth discussing today. Over the years they have emerged as a seminal, pioneering band in the history of rock music, and despite the general bad behavior in the movie -- including heavy sexual innuendo and use of drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol -- parents may want to take the good with the bad in order to introduce teens to this great music.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about rebellion. Does Riff Randell choose a healthy and constructive way to stand up to Miss Togar and her agenda? What are some of the other options she could have chosen?
Does rock 'n' roll really contribute to the rebelliousness of teens?
Why does Tom have so much trouble talking to girls? What is it about Riff that attracts him? Do you think his fancy van is good a way of getting girls to like him?
- In theaters: August 24, 1979
- On DVD or streaming: May 4, 2010
- Cast: Clint Howard, Joey Ramone, Mary Woronov, P.J. Soles
- Director: Allan Arkush
- Studio: New World
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: High School, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- Last updated: March 20, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
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