Jack Black has been a major presence for over two decades, and constantly brings more energy and exuberance to his roles than anyone else in Hollywood. His career started back in the early ’90s, but it took him almost a decade to work his way to the top.
Black returns to the big screen in The House With A Clock In Its Walls, which opens on September 21. Let’s take a look back at his best films so far.
School of Rock
School of Rock hit all the right notes for moviegoers and critics. Black plays Dewey Finn, a struggling musician who, after getting kicked out of his band, masquerades as a substitute teacher in order to make some money. After discovering just how talented some of his students are, he forms a band with them. They all set their sights on winning a Battle of The Bands competition – and the cash prize that comes with first place. Black’s own musical talent shines in the role, which is the most hilarious, gleeful and memorable performance of his career.
Jack Black is best known for comedy, so his role in Peter Jackson’s King Kong put the spotlight on a different aspect of his talent. Black plays morally bankrupt filmmaker Carl Denham, who is ambitious and devious in equal measure. Denham leads his production crew to Skull Island to shoot a film. There, they find a prehistoric gorilla, which is kind of a problem. But the beast falls head over heels in love with the film’s lead actress, which is… kind of good? An epic, heart-racing and surprisingly romantic tale ensues. It’s a very different beauty and the beast story.
Black had appeared in films and on television prior to the year 2000 and was already developing a cult following thanks to HBO’s Tenacious D series, but his role in High Fidelity provided a star-making moment. As the highly opinionated record store clerk Barry Judd, Black primarily provided comic relief. His physical performance is beautifully over the top. The climax of the film features a performance by Barry’s band, the idea of which has been mocked throughout the movie. Anyone seeing High Fidelity for the first time now can probably guess the band is going to be amazing. At the time, his rendition of ‘Let’s Get it On’ was a hilarious surprise, and everyone left the theater talking about Jack Black.
Tropic Thunder is an action comedy in which three actors who are forced to take their roles very seriously after their director abandons them in a jungle due to their prima donna behavior during a film shoot. Surrounded by real peril, the actors pull out their most convincing performances yet as they quite literally fight for their lives. Black plays Jeff Portnoy, a popular comedy actor – a role which amplifies the film’s heavily meta-humor. He responds to danger with ridiculous one-liners, and Black’s larger-than-life performance was the equal of all the other comic powerhouses in the film.
This 2015 horror comedy is based on the classic book series of the same name by R.L. Stine. Black plays a heavily fictionalized version of Stine, whose books (in the movie) actually contain monsters. The release of one monster starts a chain reaction that imperils the entire town around Stine and the other characters. Black plays the author with surprising complexity, which gives the film a lot of its power. As the Goosebumps creator, he gets to complain about competition with Stephen King, in moments that Black exploits for maximum comic effect.
Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle
Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is the long-awaited sequel to the 1995 film Jumanji. Four high school students are sucked into a video game, where they inhabit avatars of characters in the game. Jack Black plays the game character Professor Sheldon Oberon, who is inhabited by Bethany, the most popular girl in school. That gives Black the chance to go way over the top with his performance – and his skills at channeling the personality of a status-obsessed high school girl are shockingly great.
The House With A Clock In Its Walls hits theaters on September 21.