Main cast: Jack Black (Daniel Gregory Landsman), James Marsden (Oliver Lawless), Kathryn Hahn (Stacey Landsman), and Jeffrey Tambor (Bill Shurmur)
Directors: Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel
Jack Black has been doing more dramatic roles over the last few years, and to a point, he is proving that he does have what it takes. His Daniel Gregory Landsman in The D Train is cringe-inducing in just how hard Daniel tries to fit in and be cool, but Mr Black manages to still imbue his character with some recognizably human traits that make that character a little bit sympathetic – just a bit, but good enough.
Unlike what the title of this movie may lead you to think, this is not some kind of adult film with willies flying all over the place. It’s a little more complicated than that. Daniel is an average kind of fellow – overweight, not exactly a looker, stuck firmly in middle-class suburban hell with a wife and a son, both of whom he can’t relate to. His colleagues pretend that they are not having beer together after work so that he won’t join them and ruin their fun, while his boss ignores him for his more charismatic colleagues. Even after making himself the Chairman of the High School Alumni Board (mostly because he sets up the Facebook account and refuses to divulge the password to anyone else), he’s still a nobody.
He sees a chance to change up his life when he spots an old high school friend, Oliver Lawless, in an ad spot on TV. He claims that they were really close in school, which may be news to other people and even Oliver himself. Daniel begins spinning tales, telling everyone that he will bring Oliver, his good friend – the best friend in the world, really – to the 20th reunion party and make the whole thing a crashing success. On his part, he envisions himself becoming an instantly popular cool kid when he walks into the party beside Oliver. Therefore, he heads over to LA to meet Oliver in person.
It works better than most people would expect, the meeting. Oliver humors Daniel, showing him around town, even having some fun in the process, and the whole thing culminates with the bisexual Oliver seducing Daniel into an intimate encounter. Oliver also agrees to come to the reunion, although Daniel should have realized that he should not to cling too hard to his hopes that he and Oliver are now BFFs, not after the way Oliver casually dismisses him the morning after while making plans for the rest of the day with his girlfriend. Daniel is too star-struck with Oliver and too bent on placing all his hopes of becoming the cool kid by having Oliver as his BFF, however, to the point that he allows Oliver to stay at his place when he comes down for the reunion.
Hot mess ensues.
While this movie is billed as a comedy, some folks may find this one a bit too disquieting to laugh out loud, because Daniel’s clingy and desperate antics can feel very real to anyone who has ever wanted to fit in with everyone else. Daniel’s blind spot prevents him from seeing Oliver’s very obvious self-destructive ways, and at the end of the day, the audience may most likely relate the most to Kathryn Hahn’s character, as poor Stacey can only watch on in horror as her husband makes an utter fool of himself – publicly too.
The movie could have been an incredibly uncomfortable thing to watch were not for its one fatal flaw: the tacked-on happy ending. For a long time, the script, also by the directors, seems bent on going down a path that makes both the behavior of Daniel and Oliver increasingly dark and even disturbing. Then, all of a sudden, Oliver becomes a guy who has experienced an epiphany and decides that Daniel has somehow made him get in touch with something good that still lives in him. Daniel starts talking about how he knows now that his life is rich and blessed all along, blah blah blah, and Stacey doesn’t even consider dragging her husband to see a shrink.
All this sunshine and cheerfulness feels horribly contrived and awkward. If this had been a big studio film, I’d have guessed that perhaps the producers stepped in and forced a more happy ending to make the film more marketable. This isn’t such film, so I can only guess that the directors-cum-scriptwriters chickened out from letting the movie hurtle towards a more natural but even more deranged conclusion.
Oh, and before you ask, Jack Black is the one who wears the tighty-whities, and I’m not sure how many people are clamoring to see that. James Marsden wears a pair of tight-fitting boxer-briefs, but it’s pretty obvious that he doesn’t recognize leg day and he also has an ass that is as flat as a pancake done in by a steamroller. His face sure is very pretty, though – he’s definitely looking better with age. Anyway, you should not be watching The D Train for the scenery, let’s just say. Now that I think of it, I’m not sure why one should even watch this movie. Curiosity, perhaps. That’s my excuse, anyway.