The D Train
Starring Jack Black, James Marsden, Kathryn Hahn, Jeffrey Tambor
Jack Black’s latest comedy The D Train is distributed by IFC, so you might wonder why is one of the former reining box office comedians opening a new film with a small studio? The answer is twofold, since Black’s recent films Bernie, The Big Year and Gulliver’s Travels didn’t produce profit and the “D” in the title stands for a lot more than our lead characters name. Writer/directors Andrew Mogel and Jarred Paul set everything up like the Black comedies we are familiar with, but our main guy isn’t the most outstanding person and once James Marsden joins the mix, doing the best work of his career I might add, things get very uncomfortable in the most interesting way.
Self-appointed head of the alumni committee at his former high school, Daniel Landsman (Black) discovers one of his classmates on a Banana Boat commercial, while scrolling late night television. The father and loving husband, figures if he can get Oliver Lawless (Marsden) to attend their reunion, he will get the thanks from a grateful sleepy town, which has never shown him any respect. Unpopular then, and now, Dan fabricates a story with his boss to get a trip to Los Angeles and meet up with Oliver, who as it turns out, is just another destitute 40 year old wannabe actor in the city of angels. Both Dan and Oliver try to impress each other with drinking, drugs and manipulation, leading to one very interesting night, that will have major ramification when they both return to their high school.
Somewhere in the ridiculousness there is a bunch of useful lessons.
I think having heartthrob James Marsden (X-Men, Welcome to Me) making out with a dude in a film is certainly something that would raise a lot of eyebrows and get lot of attention in certain crowds, however when you revel that someone is Jack Black, things get really weird. That’s where the plot takes us when Oliver, a gracefully aging, scruffy model/actor, reveals to his bisexuality. “Whatever I feel like doing”, is his motto. The script uses this one wild and ingenious moment between to two characters to build the remainder of the film and most of the time it works. Black plays Daniel pretty standard compared to his familiar roles, but it’s Marsden who channels this undefined character in a very familiar setting.
It might look like it’s an independent version of The Hangover or another raunchy bromance, and sure there are booze scenes, cocaine and strippers, but somewhere in the ridiculousness there is a bunch of useful lessons. “You ever feel like you are just lying to yourself,” Daniel asks. Of course both characters are in the exact same position but trying to show off to each other, masking their depression and disappointments with their life. One thing is for sure, you will never think of hosing down lawn chairs the same after this movie. Call it what you will, but there is something very entertaining about watching characters reap all the negative seeds they sow.
James Marsden takes a risk, and it pays off big time.