Warning! Some minor Spoilers ahead (but these spoilers may save some of you expecting something wildly different than what you’re going to get!)
Never before has there been a more awkwardly homo erotic film in wide release format.
All his life, Dan Landsman (Jack Black) has never been the cool guy. That’s about to change – if he can convince Oliver Lawless (Marsden), the most popular guy from his high school who’s now the face of a national Banana Boat ad campaign, to show up with him to their class reunion. A man on a mission, Dan travels from Pittsburgh to LA and spins a web of lies to recruit Lawless. But he gets more than he bargains for as the unpredictable Lawless proceeds to take over his home, career, and entire life.
Jack Black certainly has an awkward style of comedic timing. Case in point would be his last film Bernie, which was every bit as brave and salacious as Black is likely to get in his career. That is until he took on the role of Dan in The D Train. Perhaps the most awkward two hours you can spend at the theater this year. The movie is billed as a sort of underdog story. It’s the poor overachieving class dork trying to reign in the coolest guy from high school. The marketing will mislead you into believing you’re attending a buddy comedy of sorts maybe. The marketing will lie to you drastically. This is much more a black comedy with some seriously depraved and perverted undertones.
Black can be fantastic when he is given the right material and he really sinks his teeth into a role. Bernie was a hilariously dark romp about a strangely sadistic man. Oddly enough The D Train is also a dark romp about a strangely sadistic man, without the hilarity. While the film here isn’t all that funny. electing to go for shocking instead of whimsical, that is not necessarily Black’s fault. He is given a character that is written in a way that makes him insufferable. Black does little to quell those traits with his performance, and instead his boisterous style amplifies all of the negative attributes Dan has. The character may have been better served by someone who is a little more subtle, but even in that case it still likely would not have worked given the writing.
Marsden as the cool guy is just that, the classic stereotypical, peaked in highschool cool guy. Oliver is the cigarette smoking, hard partying, Hollywood big shot who got away from the small town. The problem is he’s a lot more sleaze than glam and in turn is a pretty unlikable fella. That being said Oliver is probably the character with the most depth, at least that we can distinguish. Sure he was the cool guy and he’s still devastatingly handsome, but he’s largely a failure and lives in a small studio apartment. Marsden actually does alright here but the script doesn’t develop the character enough for his inner demons to really land on an emotional level.
Where The D Train comes off the tracks comedically is in it’s character development. They try to make a mockery out of Dan but the problem is Dan is so unlikable that you can’t even laugh at him. He has some supremely narcissistic tendencies and is a bit of a sociopath. He is annoying and self loathing, and also not really a great father or husband. To be frank Dan is a total dick to everyone, yet he seems confused when others don’t invite him to the bar for a few drinks. Then of course is his pathological need to lie to his boss (which is later debunked as completely unnecessary, though that reveal is more sad than funny) which leads to a pretty dark place that potentially means the bankruptcy of the whole company. There is just nothing believable about this film from start to finish.
Dan’s wife Stacey (Kathryn Hahn) is a concerned and attractive woman, which leaves you puzzled trying to figure out what the hell she is doing with this psycho. Then there’s the strangely erotic relationship between Dan and Oliver. In a terribly awkward scene where the two actually sleep together while Dan is in California recruiting Oliver for the reunion, we are left so baffled it’s almost amazing the people who made this thought that would fly. This a contrivance, meant to allow the film to deliver it’s shocker, but given that Dan is so unattractively desperate, it just doesn’t work, even as a joke.
The rest of the film carries on different subplots and detours but the overlying theme is in the homosexual tension that Dan creates. He has this sort of shame when he first comes back home, but that washes away when Oliver comes in for the reunion and then we start to get this weird tense and poorly written jealousy. Dan seems to want Oliver to want him, and Oliver just wants to hang out and be the cool guy. The whole movie feels like a bad twilight zone episode unsure if it wants to be a sexually driven thriller, or an awkwardly outlandish comedy. It’s just.. It’s just.. Well it’s just really weird.
The climax of The D Train is meant to be a montage of lessons learned. There is the classic “Just be yourself, even if you’re not really sure who that self is” and also some stuff about the perils of putting others on a pedestal or something like that anyway. The whole thing just get’s so hazy because of the complete lack of credibility that comes with the relationships. The fact is the actors and the script generate nothing. They don’t stir up any empathy or sympathy or even any genuine laughs. It’s clear that the writers and director are looking to generate a parable of acceptance with a wholly adventurous premise, but the problem is they don’t venture into any of those themes with any plausibility. The D Train is just a sad little movie with unlikable characters meandering about in unfathomable situations that don’t amount to a remotely amusing experience. It’s a film with a giant hole where the heart should be. Which is a shame, given that it’s bold undertones could have served for a decent message regarding specific sexual behaviors, but it settles on just trying to be surreally shocking, and takes a left turn towards otherworldly incoherence.
0/5 WTF Bro!