Juggling two great characters with comedy and disparate tones.
|I love Jack Black and James Marsden more than the next person and the two of them starring in a character-based dark comedy is even better, but “The D Train” is a tough sell for even their biggest fans. First it takes two characters, both of whom are interesting and both of whom are based on very real and relatable character traits, and then it gives them a twist, and then it cartoonizes them. Or, they were cartoonized first, it can be a little hard to separate how this was all thought up in the first place.
Directed by: Andrew Mogel, Jarrad Paul
Screenplay by: Jarrad Paul, Andrew Mogel
Starring: Jack Black and James Marsden
But we should start with the characters because that’s where the brilliance of the movie comes in. Not wholly original, but with just the right amount of humanity and some unexpected directions, they can become original. Dan (Jack Black) is still stuck in high school. He wasn’t popular, didn’t really have friends, but he did survive and he’s determined to pass on advice to his teenage son and prove to his former classmates that he could succeed in high school. Or, at least succeed in putting together a high school reunion. He’s not all that happy with the fact that he has a beautiful wife and kids and a great job because he has former high school acquaintances to impress.
And in comes Oliver (James Marsden) in the form of a Hollywood success story. And this is hilarious because you can see how maladjusted Dan is in some brilliantly funny scenes as he analyzes exactly how cool Oliver must be. Oliver is starring in a commercial and so Dan is going to travel to LA to convince Oliver to return for their high school reunion. Dan is pretty oblivious, but to the rest of us, it’s obvious that Oliver is covering up his fear of failure with superficial bravado and has also unsuccessfully transitioned out of high school.
Marsden was fantastic with his mixture of Hollywood cool and the devastating reality of not being anything. He also earned a number of great laughs as he tried to actually help Dan. One of my biggest problems with the film though was that Jack Black’s Dan became a cartoon. He always had a goofy grin plastered on his face and a lot of exaggerated mannerisms which really under-cut the rather important personal changes that he was going to have to face.
The main characters in “The D Train” went through a lot of rather shocking moments, a lot of which played for comedy with quite a few laughs, but it also never knew how to juggle the very disparate tones at play.